The co-founder of Google sounded the alarm this week that governments and the entertainment media are battling for control of the Internet. “Very powerful forces have lined up against the open Internet on all sides and around the world,” Sergey Brin said. “It’s scary.”
Government attacks and the entertainment media cracking down on piracy are all threats to freedom and open communication, Brin said in an interview in the Guardian. Brin also criticized Facebook and Apple for creating restrictive user walls in order to control the software used on their platforms.Five years ago, Brin believed that no country could stick the Internet genie back in the bottle, but recent government actions have convinced Brin that governments are successfully attacking the Internet genie.
Brin singled out Saudi Arabia, China and Iran as leading the effort to attack Internet freedom through censorship and restricted Internet use. He also warned that Facebook and Apple are restricting innovation and balkanising the web by controlling access by users.
Brin surmised that he and Larry Page might have been hog-tied trying to start Google if Facebook controlled the Internet. The problem with Facebook is that it operates under restrictive rules, Brin said. “The kind of environment that we developed Google in, the reason that we were able to develop a search engine, is the web was so open,” Brin said. “Once you get too many rules, that will stifle innovation.”
The Internet is under multiple attacks on many fronts from governments, hackers, activists, companies and the military.
For example, the government of China recently introduced real identity rules to clamp down on the freewheeling microblogging sites. It’s rumored that Iran will introduce a sealed national Internet this summer. Some in Russia are agitating for the blogosphere to be tamed and tied down.
Brin unloaded his most pointed criticism at the entertainment industry by condemning the industry’s mad rush for anti-piracy laws. The industry is shooting itself in the foot, Brin said.
Two bills the entertainment industry is lobbying for mirror the repressive laws used by China and Iran. Brin lambasted the industry for requiring users to jump through innumerable hoops to buy legitimate content. Why should users do that, he asked, when a pirate site allows a user to choose, download and it works?
Brin admitted that Google is under pressure to divulge information to the U.S. Government.
“We push back a lot,” Brin said, adding that Google does what it can to protect its data.