Inside Google’s Effort to Develop a Censored Search Engine in China

Ryan Gallagher, who has done an outstanding job unearthing information about Google's secret China plans, finds that the company is using a website it owns called to gather information about which terms it would have to censor if it were granted a license to get back into China:

It appears that Google has used as a de facto honeypot for market research, storing information about Chinese users’ searches before sending them along to Baidu. Google’s use of offers an insight into the mechanics behind its planned Chinese censored search platform, code-named Dragonfly, which the company has been preparing since spring 2017.
After gathering sample queries from, Google engineers used them to review lists of websites that people would see in response to their searches. The Dragonfly developers used a tool they called “BeaconTower” to check whether the websites were blocked by the Great Firewall. They compiled a list of thousands of websites that were banned, and then integrated this information into a censored version of Google’s search engine so that it would automatically manipulate Google results, purging links to websites prohibited in China from the first page shown to users.


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