Internal Google documents, as well as people familiar with the matter, indicate that the US company will launch in China a mobile search engine that blocks websites and search terms China's government objects to, according to The Intercept.
Google has been developing a censored version of its search engine under the codename "Dragonfly" since the start of a year ago, according to a report published Wednesday by The Intercept, which cites internal documents provided by a whistleblower.
It comes as China steps up scrutiny into business dealings involving USA tech firms including Facebook.
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.
Sen. Marco Rubio and even some Google employees are among those criticizing the company. "It is impossible to see how such a move is compatible with Google's "Do the right thing" motto, and we are calling on the company to change course". The ruling Communist Party led by President Xi Jinping frequently conducts widespread crackdowns on dissent, including targeting 300 human rights lawyers in 2015 and sending thousands of ethnic minorities to "re-education" centres in the predominantly Muslim region of Xinjiang, according to NGOs.
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.
Google's Android already has the largest market share of any operating system in China, now accounting for roughly 51 percent of all devices.
The dynamic changed in January 2010, when Google charged that Chinese hackers had targeted Google and more than 20 other Western companies and compromised the email accounts of Chinese dissidents living overseas.
Based on fears that it could be eventually approved, the stock of Baidu, the company that filled Google's search engine void when it left China in 2010, plunged 7.7 percent, according to TechNode.
Amnesty International said Google should not proceed with the programme. In the Reuters report an unnamed official from China's cyberspace regulator confirms that Google and the regulator are discussing a modified search program, but added that the app is very unlikely to be launched this year.
Documents referred to as "Google confidential" have also been reportedly been discovered, stating that banned websites will not be shown on the first page of search results, while a disclaimer that reads "some results may have been removed due to statutory requirements" will be displayed instead. They claim that Google has already demonstrated the service to the Chinese government, with negotiations between them ongoing. "An exec at an internet giant once told me that their AI speaker could be much better if they didn't have to spend so much time on censoring sensitive stuff".