Google co-founder Sergey Brin has criticized coverage of his “internet freedom” comments, taking to Google+ to clarify his position on Apple, Facebook and the threat of government web censorship. “My thoughts got particularly distorted in the secondary coverage in a way that distracts from my central tenets” Brin wrote on the social networking site, going on to praise Apple and Facebook after having initially expressed concerns about their closed digital ecosystems.
“Today, the primary threat by far to internet freedom is government filtering of political dissent. This has been far more effective than I ever imagined possible across a number of nations” Brin writes. “In addition, other countries such as the US have come close to adopting very similar techniques in order to combat piracy and other vices. I believe these efforts have been misguided and dangerous.”
However, Brin took particular care to clarify his stance on his key rivals in the tech world. He reiterated his existing point that government censorship is a far more dangerous issue, and highlights that both Apple and Facebook “have made key contributions” to web freedom, separate from any ongoing concerns he and others at Google might have about the limits they place on software, data and services.
“Lastly in the interview came the subject of digital ecosystems that are not as open as the web itself and I think this portion has led to some misunderstanding of my views. So to clarify, I certainly do not think this issue is on a par with government based censorship. Moreover, I have much admiration for two of the companies we discussed — Apple and Facebook. I have always admired Apple’s products. In fact, I am writing this post on an Imac and using an Apple keyboard I have cherished for the past seven years. Likewise, Facebook has helped to connect hundreds of millions of people, has been a key tool for political expression and has been instrumental to the Arab Spring. Both have made key contributions to the free flow of information around the world” Sergey Brin, co-founder, Google
Nonetheless, while this seems like damage control from the co-founder, there’s no denying that Google and its rivals have clashed over freedom of access to data in the past years. Facebook contacts sync into the Android phonebook was removed, for instance, when the social network refused to allow users to export that data from the service.
For Google, as Brin sees it, the danger of the internet today is that some organizations and governments attempt to impost “tollbooths and gatekeepers” such as paying individual ISPs or having to ask for permission to create a directory of sites. “To the extent that free flow of information threatens the powerful,” he concludes, “those in power will seek to suppress it.”