Will censorship vanish within a decade? Google chairman Eric Schmidt says so

Will censorship vanish within a decade? Google chairman Eric Schmidt says so

Summary: In the midst of the NSA and gleeful surveillance by governments worldwide, does Schmidt's prediction have merit?

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TOPICS: Censorship, Google
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Google's Eric Schmidt says that it is possible for censorship as we know it to end within a decade.

Speaking at a Johns Hopkins University on Wednesday, the tech giant's executive chairman said that in areas such as China and North Korea -- where the Internet is restricted and free speech can result in severe punishment -- the better use of encryption and technological innovation could keep everyone connected and prevent spying -- whether the ruling powers that be like it or not. Schmidt commented:

"First they try to block you; second, they try to infiltrate you; and third, you win. I really think that's how it works. Because the power is shifted.

I believe there's a real chance that we can eliminate censorship and the possibility of censorship in a decade."

According to Reuters, speaking of a trip to North Korea, Schmidt said that attempts to lessen restrictions on the flow of information into the country failed.

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While on the trip in January, his daughter Sophie summed up the country as "like The Truman Show, at country scale." Sophie mentioned that the delegation were advised to leave their gadgets in China to stop them being confiscated and infected with malware -- and while there are three separate versions of the Internet, a supervised one, university network and the country's intranet, the average North Korean cannot access the Web freely.

In addition, despite 3G connectivity, data access is non-existent. The Google chairman pleaded with officials from the so-called "Hermit country" to remove Internet access barriers, warning that economic destruction and isolation will be North Korea's future if they failed to do so soon (if not so already). At a press conference in Beijing, Schmidt said:

"As the world becomes increasingly connected, their decision to be virtually isolated is very much going to affect their physical world. [Web restrictions will] make it harder for them to catch up economically. We made that alternative very, very clear."

The Google executive has not been invited back to the country. However, as we all know in light of the U.S. National Security Agency document leaks provided by Edward Snowden, censorship and surveillance can be found closer to home.

Documents released by the former NSA contractor suggested that Google is one of several companies that has had its data tapped by the U.S. agency for intelligence gathering. In response, Schmidt said the claims, if true, were "outrageous" and potentially illegal.

Schmidt said that the alleged infiltration of the search engine giant's data centers also showed poor judgement and was "not OK." Later, Google filed official complaints with the NSA, U.S. Congress and President Barack Obama. The NSA, in turn, said the documents contained errors and the agency complies with all laws.

Despite these potential data leaks and Google itself coming under fire for privacy breaches -- including a $17 million settlement over the firm bypassing iPhone web browser settings to track users -- Schmidt says the solution would be simply to encrypt everyone. If technology is used to improve encryption across the web, then eventually, censorship and surveillance will be far more difficult to achieve. 

"It's pretty clear to me that government surveillance and the way in which governments are doing this will be here to stay in some form, because it's how the citizens will express themselves, and the governments will want to know what they're doing," the Google executive commented.

"In that race, I think the censors will lose, and I think that people would be empowered."

Topics: Censorship, Google

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19 comments
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  • Yeah, right.

    This from the company eager to help China censor it's internet.
    baggins_z
    • Born to $croogle

      What else to expect?
      LBiege
    • no question with unlimited spying and monitorig and tracking, oh my

      You'll be on the "LIST" and probably more than one. The lists are all stack ranked...
      Did someone say the death panel has a list? Doh!
      greywolf7
    • Google doesn't censor itself in China.

      If you don't believe me, maybe you'll believe this.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_China#Ending_of_self-censorship

      Moral of the story: know what you're talking about.
      unaligned
      • Ah, yes.

        Sourcing your argument from a Wikipedia article. That's almost funny.
        Drew@...
        • Not funny, because it's true

          Because I've been through the period before Google censored its own content, and was blocked every other second. I still think it stupid that Google was forced out by both countries' policies -- they had a chance at tapping the Chinese market. Now only the geeks who have the technical means to circumvent blockage uses Google, since HTTPS has been blocked as well.

          Baidu -1.
          interarticle
    • Get Your Facts Straight

      If you remember Google pulled out of China years ago because of that very reason. It is Badia who has 80+% of the search in China, (not Google) and it is it that sells the citizens down the river.
      bigpicture
  • A joke

    He adds qualifying statements like a politician but the mere notion is horribly naïve. Just knowing that the NSA is potentially looking over your shoulder is a form of censorship right there.

    Also, it doesn't do anyone any good to rely on encryption when the NSA deliberately has the standards weakened. Even if they weren't weakened it would merely be a matter of time before major state powers like the NSA cracked them anyway. The Nazis and Japanese thought their codes were secure too.
    MajorlyCool
    • Snooping isn't censorship

      And whether or not it's seen as a threat depends on what is done with the snooping. At this point, I see little or no evidence that the U.S. government is trying to punish people for *peaceful* political dissent. If people with unpopular opinions are mysteriously vanishing, then I've seen no evidence of it. Have you?

      I figure that if the current administration wanted to use NSA data for political purposes, there are plenty of high profile targets to choose from.
      John L. Ries
      • Technically

        Technically you're correct. However, I meant that knowing someone is snooping has a self-censoring effect. Personally I'm more careful these days in what I say and what I write. Will I come under closer scrutiny if I joke with my friends about bombs or jihad? Who knows. I do know I wouldn't like the government picking apart my life.

        And I'd urge you not be complacent about whom the government decides to target. Ask yourself what would Nixon or J. Edgar Hoover have done with this kind of power? Who would have been safe?
        MajorlyCool
        • WWJEHD?

          That would be a legitimate question and I don't think I'm complaisant, but there are a lot of people who are over-reacting and we are seeing a revival of the "USA is just as oppressive as the USSR" lie (deliberate deception) that was so frequently circulated during the Cold War.

          There are legitimate concerns, but let's not exaggerate.
          John L. Ries
      • Yes, I have

        A few years ago, I heard exactly that from an Asian colleague - lots of people from his community had simply vanished without explanation over the past few months/years.
        OhNoezMoreSpam
  • Depends on what you mean by "censorship"

    I think vendors will always exercise some control over the literature they sell and theater owners will have similar control over the movies and plays they show (these are often called "censorship" for political reasons). But even with the proper definition, I think totalitarian states will continue to try to control what their subjects read and watch for as long as they endure. The Great Firewall will be likely be dismantled in the days following the overthrow of China's Communist regime (which will happen eventually) and not before. We have ample evidence that North Korea's Communist rulers would rather be poor than risk losing control. Iran is constructing a Great Firewall of its own and like-minded states are likely to follow.

    Authoritarianism has always had an economic cost which authoritarian rulers have generally been happy to bear; but the Internet makes the costs higher than they've ever been before, and I think that's a good thing.
    John L. Ries
  • Corporate Censorship is alive an well.

    Just say I hate all **(^%, on your facebook page and see how long it takes to get fired.
    john@...
  • The two finger rule.

    Imagine you're on the dock next to a giant ocean liner. The two finger rule says that if you place two fingers on the hull and steadily push for a long, long time, the ship will move. The individual's desire to be free expresses itself as a push against unhappiness. Eventually, things change because the pressure is unrelenting. Censorship is just another ship but in this case, some censorship is not a bad thing. It all depends on your beliefs.
    trm1945
  • illegal claims?

    Perhaps the activities are illegal and "outrageous" but not the claims of them? But then again, English is my 2nd language, what do I know...

    "Documents released by the former NSA contractor suggested that Google is one of several companies that has had its data tapped by the U.S. agency for intelligence gathering. In response, Schmidt said the claims, if true, were "outrageous" and potentially illegal."
    Alex Gerulaitis
  • He's dreaming

    Censorship will never leave. In fact it will probably get worse.
    Gisabun
  • Censorship dying?

    Tell it to the people in Iran or China. Not happening folks. It is likely to make a comeback in western civilization sooner or later. It goes in cycles.
    hayneiii@...
  • Schmidt is a **(^%

    Google doesn't care about censorship.

    Google just objects to anything that restricts its 'right' to profit by advertising and distributing stolen IP to people who cannot see it's promoted advertisements.

    Some things never change.
    Henry 3 Dogg