"It will be a dark day for internet freedom if Google has acquiesced to China's extreme censorship".
Although talks between Google and the Chinese government are believed to be ongoing, they may be overshadowed by the developing trade conflict between the U.S. and China, which shows little sign of abating at the moment. The Chinese social media website Weibo is one of the most popular online platforms in the country - that platform blocks information topics such as "anti-communism", authoritarian related novels such as George Orwell's 1984, and much more.
Progress on the project - which would end Google's eight-year boycott of the communist country over complaints about censorship - picked up after a December meeting between Google's chief executive Sundar Pichai and a top Chinese government official. And Google has apparently changed its mind about censorship.
The initiative is codenamed Dragonfly and is one of several options the company is pursuing for returning to China, the people said, while noting timing is still up in the air.
Apple reaches new landmark with US$1 trillion valuation
Stock buybacks reduce the number of shares a company has on the open market, driving up the price of the remaining shares. The other company with some claim to be the first valued at $1 trillion is China's state-owned oil company PetroChina .
After leaving China nearly a decade ago, Google might be going back. Google engineers have created custom apps named "Maotai" and "Longfei", which have already been demonstrated for Chinese officials and could be launched within the next six to nine months. For example, links to the BBC website and Wikipedia would be removed from the search results, The Intercept said.
At stake is the world's biggest online community of 772 million internet users, with nearly half of the population still not connected to the internet, according to the China Internet Report co-authored by the South China Morning Post, its tech news site Abacus and the San Francisco-based venture capital firm 500 start-ups.
Separate reports by Reuters and New York Times, citing people familiar with the matter or working at Google, also confirmed the existence of Project Dragonfly, adding that its existence does not necessarily mean that it has approval from authorities and is not likely to launch anytime soon. The folks over at The Intercept also claim to have received access to documents titled "Google Confidential" that detail plans of Google's re-entry into the Chinese market after more than 8 years of exile.
These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered - combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web - have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China.
Patrick Poon, a Hong Kong-based researcher with Amnesty International, told The Intercept that Google's apparent decision to go along with the Chinese government's repressive demands in pursuit of profit is "a big disaster for the information age".