Google co-founder Sergey Brin criticized recent legislation, media and web companies, and totalitarian governments for threatening the open internet during pointed remarks that drew on a tense year that has seen open web advocates on the defensive against the copyright lobby and severe copyright legislation.
Increasingly, governments are coming into conflict with web companies, powerful lobbies, and the interests of internet users over who controls the internet, Brin said during an interview with The Guardian. In the face of “very powerful forces that have lined up against the open internet on all sides and around the world” it would be more difficult, if not impossible, to launch a service like Google today, he said.
Despite his earlier belief that authoritarian states could only temporarily restrict the internet, Brin is now worried that countries including China and Saudi Arabia and winning the fight against innovators and freedom advocates.
“I thought there was no way to put the genie back in the bottle, but now it seems in certain areas the genie has been put back in the bottle,” he said.
He also nodded to a growing rivalry between Google and social networking titan Facebook, criticizing that company for hiding a wealth of content in a way such that it cannot be indexed by search engines like Google.
Notably, Brin called out recent legislation in the United States, the now-infamous Stop Online Piracy and Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property acts, both of which Google played a central activist role in defeating during a widely-observed internet blackout in January. Those potential laws, which enjoyed heavy support from the film and music industry, came under heavy criticism for threatening the neutrality of the internet.
More recently, some of the ideas in those bills have been resurrected in the form of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act. The relationship between that bill, Facebook’s endorsement of it, and Brin’s decision to come forward for these remarks is not entirely clear.
Google itself has not been immune to criticism from privacy and open web advocates, bypassing security measures on its rivals’ products, for collecting sensitive information and for bowing to government requests for data.
Cory Doctorow pointed out that while Brin lamented government requests for data, he didn’t address whether the search giant could “collect less information, and delete it more often?”
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