The executive chairman of one of the largest corporations in the world has turned his attention to India. “As the internet has emerged in many of these different countries, there’s quite a few countries that have no laws that pertain to the internet at all and those internets tend to be free and open with almost anything goes,” Google’s Eric Schmidt told the audience at the Big Tent Activate Summit in New Delhi.
And this is something that all other countries should aspire to as well, according to Schmidt. In an op-ed for the Times of India he wrote:
“Where there is a free and open web, where there is unbridled technological progress, where information can be disseminated and consumed freely, society flourishes.”
Though he conceded that the internet has given governments such as the Chinese the opportunity to spy on their citizens: “My point here is that this [ability to intrude on privacy] is going to happen because the value of the internet is so profound and positive, but we’ve got to recognise the issues and get ahead of it by discussion.”
Am I the only one thinking that Google giving advice on online privacy is akin to the wolf instructing the three little pigs on how to build a safe house?
This is the same man that once told CNBC: “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”
It’s also the same man that told the Atlantic: “We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about.”
Sounds pretty close to what the Chinese government aspires to do. But I guess the difference is that Google “does no evil” with the information it gathers about citizens around the world. And the less regulation there is, the more information they can gather.
Google would prefer it didn’t have to answer to any government. “If we could wave a magic wand and not be subject to US law, that would be great,” Sergey Brin, the company co-founder, told the Guardian. “If we could be in some magical jurisdiction that everyone in the world trusted, that would be great.”
As there is little chance of it operating in the US without adhering to US law, Google is instead spending huge amounts of money on lobbying Congress to amend those laws. “The average American doesn’t realize how much of the laws are written by lobbyists,” Schmidt told the Atlantic.
The wider the internet grows, the corporations that are able to gather the most information about its users not only become the most powerful force, but also benefit the most financially.
It’s not a secret that Google is fighting any attempt of enforcement of authors’ rights.
Without any pesky regulation Google can, of course, also continue to make huge piles of money from the ads its ad networks are serving to pirate websites.
India’s music creators have traditionally not been protected by copyright law.
Those making music for Bollywood movies have instead been forced to give away the rights to their work against a one-off fee, but a change to the copyright law is currently winding its way through the courts. It would benefit Google if the situation remains status quo so they wouldn’t have to bother with copyright at all online.
“Now is the moment for India to decide what kind of internet it wants for them: an open internet that benefits all or a highly regulated one that inhibits innovation,” Schmidt announced in his op-ed.
It’s a disingenuous proposal. The truth is that an internet that lacks any regulation does not benefit all. The enforcement of creators’ rights enables creators (innovators) to share in the revenue the use of their work generates online. That, in turn, gives them the freedom to create more work, independently, without having to resort to going cap in hand to corporations or the government (today’s version of patrons), who can then dictate what they can or cannot say in their work, in return for their financial support.
It’s not exactly a model for a “flourishing society”, more like the feudalism of medieval Europe.
An unregulated internet, where corporations such as Google don’t have to follow any law, does not benefit all – it benefits the corporations with the biggest financial muscle. Naturally it would also mean no interference by those annoying competition commissions. Which may have something to do with Schmidt now taking his lobbying to India.
First image by mattwi1s0n@flikr, second by killrbeez@flickr, both licensed under Creative Commons 2.0 Generic.