We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all.
Google has declined to comment on the subject, but the reports have pummeled shares of US -listed Baidu, which dominates China's search engine market.
The Great Firewall has meant that Google Search isn't accessible from within China. In its announcement about pulling out of the country in March 2010, Google blamed the Chinese government's censorship and surveillance policies as antithetical to what the company believes.
Google is not commenting on "speculation about future plans". According to the leaked materials, the development of the censorship-friendly mobile search engine app began in the spring of a year ago. The censorship will apply across the platform: Google's image search, automatic spell check and suggested search features will incorporate the blacklists, meaning that they will not recommend people information or photographs the government has banned. Google's search engine and other services are in the same predicament.
According to internal documents, acquired by The Intercept, the final version could be launched in the next six to nine months, pending approval from the Chinese government.
It's a reversal of its stance from eight years ago, when Google left China in protest of the country's censorship.
The Intercept obtained leaked documents showing that CEO Sundar Pichai met with a Chinese government official in December 2017, as part of a renewed push to re-enter China.
Currently, Google's search service can not be accessed in China, meaning that the company is missing out on quite a large ad market, something which this new project likely hopes to fix.
If Google does make the jump to the Chinese market, it'll be competing with Baidu, the entrenched local search engine.
It is unknown whether the firm will eventually launch a desktop version of its search platform in China as well.
The project - codenamed Dragonfly - has been underway since spring of past year, and accelerated following a December 2017 meeting between Google's CEO Sundar Pichai and a top Chinese government official.
Sen. Marco Rubio and even some Google employees are among those criticizing the company. On a chat group used by Googlers, one employee called the situation "the new Maven", a reference to the controversy inside the company earlier this year over Google's work with the USA military.
Google may be changing its tune when it comes to the largest single market for internet users.