Google’s Brin warns on web freedom

Not just China, but Facebook also threatens the future of the web

April 16, 2012
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Google’s Sergey Brin has been talking about freedom on the net, and has loosed some flak in the direction of both Facebook and Apple.

In an interview with the Guardian, Brin noted that the web is facing a dangerous time in terms of censorship, and not just from oppressive governments across the globe.

He said there are “very powerful forces that have lined up against the open internet on all sides and around the world”.

“I am more worried than I have been in the past,” he added. “It’s scary.”

Oppressive regimes are certainly a big part of the freedom issue, of course. Brin said that he never believed the web could effectively be censored and controlled, but that China had proved him wrong. Not to mention nations such as Iran, with alleged plans for a sanitised national “intranet” for their citizens, to replace full internet access.

However, Brin then brought Google’s rivals into the firing line, noting that Apple and Facebook’s walled gardens of content were detrimental to a free and open internet. These risk stifling innovation and “balkanising the web”, he argued.

Brin further noted: “There’s a lot to be lost. For example, all the information in apps – that data is not crawlable by web crawlers. You can’t search it.”

Of course, the open internet is beneficial for Google in terms of maximising the influence of its all-conquering search engine – and access to information which is all swallowed up by the yawning maw that leads to Google’s ever-rumbling data stomach.

If the positions of Google+ and Facebook were reversed, it would also be interesting to see how open Google’s totally dominant social network remained.

Brin also took potshots at the entertainment industry, and recent efforts to enforce draconian, overly wide-ranging anti-piracy legislation, which further threatens internet freedom (the likes of SOPA and now the new spectre of CISPA over in the US).

He’s certainly correct in his assertion that the free internet is facing attacks on a number of fronts, and that these threats are very worrying ones.


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