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Google China's headquarters in Beijing, pictured in 2010. Photo: Liu Jin/AFP via Getty Images

Google plans to build a censored search engine for the Chinese market, reports the Intercept, citing leaked documents with records of the plans.

Reality check: Even if Google is building a such a tool, it doesn't mean it's getting into China anytime soon. U.S. tech giants are willing to spend time and money to crack China's massive market, but winning government approval is difficult. Facebook was reportedly also working on a censorship tool in 2016, but the company hasn't been able to move into China since them.

The details, per the Intercept:

  • The search engine would "blacklist websites and search terms about human rights, democracy, religion, and peaceful protest."
  • The project is code-named "Dragonfly" and has been in the works since the spring of 2017, but progress accelerated after a December 2017 meeting between Google CEO Sundar Pichai and a top Chinese official.
  • Google developers have reportedly built an Android app with the censorship tool. It has been shown to the Chinese government, and "the finalized version could be launched in the next six to nine months, pending approval from Chinese officials."
  • A spokesperson for Google reached by Axios declined to comment on future plans in China.

The backdrop: Google's search engine has been banned in China for nearly a decade. The company shut down search engine operations in 2010 because of Chinese censorship laws.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

The unicorn stampede is coming

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Airbnb and DoorDash plan to go public in the next few weeks, capping off a very busy year for IPOs.

What's next: You ain't seen nothing yet.

15 hours ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.