Google’s Schmidt Warns of Governments Restricting Online Freedom

Google Inc. Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said governments around the world are likely to threaten Internet freedom, requiring efforts now to ensure people around the world will remain connected online.

Schmidt, speaking at the “Big Tent D.C.” event in Washington yesterday, said society needs to pursue technical solutions to prevent governments from controlling the flow of information on the Internet. Google hosted the event in partnership with Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News.

After recently co-authoring the book “The New Digital Age,” Schmidt is extolling the power of online access that helped school girls avoid bombings in Libya and helped maimed women in Pakistan move on with their lives. He also touted the importance of the falling prices of mobile devices in helping bring more digital access to the developing world.

“This mobile revolution that we’re all sort of part of will become the defining story for most people in the next five to 10 years,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt also called for better Web security against attacks that squelch online access and protection for those silenced by governments for voicing their opinions on the Internet.

“They’re going to be tempted to get control,” Schmidt said. “They’re going to be tempted to filter and to otherwise restrict what’s going on.”

Open Web

Schmidt’s comments come after another executive at his company, Nelson Mattos, praised the potential of mobile at an event in San Francisco on April 23 that was organized by the World Affairs Council and Bloomberg. Mattos, who is vice president of product and engineering for Europe and emerging markets at Google, said mobile technology is helping women advance in business and society.

At yesterday’s event in Washington, speakers and panelists warned about overreacting to terrorist threats, such as the Boston bombing, in ways that curtail Americans’ speech and other rights, including access to material on the Internet.

“It’s a false choice to say that, as individuals who are radical become moved to violent extremism, we somehow have to curtail our civil rights and civil liberties in order to protect ourselves,” Jane Holl Lute, outgoing deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said at the event. “It’s not a crime in this country to be radical, it’s not a crime in this country to be extreme, where we all become concerned is when that radicalism and extremism translates into acts of violence, even imminent acts of violence.”

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