Google exploring censored search application in China
Sundar Pichai: Google 'exploring' censored search application
Google CEO Sundar Pichai said a censored search app in China could serve over "99% of queries," in rare public comments on the controversial proposal.
Mr. Pichai told a conference in San Francisco that the plan was in the "very early" stages and may not progress.
Google's possible return to China, a market it abandoned due to censorship concerns, was first leaked in August.
The proposal has generated criticism from employees and human rights advocates.
On Monday, Mr. Pichai was noncommittal on the launch, saying the plan was still in an exploratory stage.
"We wanted to know what it would look like if Google was in China, so that's what we built internally," Pichai said at the Wired conference in San Francisco.
"It's very early days, we don't know if we would or could do it in China, but we felt it was important for us to explore it. I think it's important for us, given the importance of the market and how many users there are, " he said.
Through internal testing, he said Google found that it could handle "more than 99% of queries."
The firm, which is owned by Alphabet, resigned from China eight years ago in protest of the country's censorship laws and alleged government tricks.
However, reports in August claimed that it had been secretly working on a new Chinese search service, internally named Dragonfly.
The platform, which still requires Chinese government approval, would block certain websites and search terms related to human rights and religion.
This has angered some employees who fear they may have been unwittingly working on technology that helps China crack down on free speech.
Earlier this month, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence called on Google to immediately suspend work on Dragonfly, saying in a speech that it would "strengthen Communist Party censorship and compromise the privacy of Chinese customers."