Sunday, November 30, 2008

Google’s Gatekeepers

Who should determine what you can and cannot read on the internet? Governments? Which one(s)? Corporations? Your neighbor? At the moment, corporations such as Google and Yahoo are the primary censors.

Personally, I wish we had a better form of worldwide government that could govern the internet equitably and uniformly -- as long as they have strong protections for free speech similar to the US.

Here are a few quotes from this long but good article by the New York Times:

"Voluntary self-regulation means that, for the foreseeable future, Wong and her colleagues will continue to exercise extraordinary power over global speech online. Which raises a perennial but increasingly urgent question: Can we trust a corporation to be good — even a corporation whose informal motto is “Don’t be evil”?"

“To love Google, you have to be a little bit of a monarchist, you have to have faith in the way people traditionally felt about the king,” Tim Wu, a Columbia law professor and a former scholar in residence at Google, told me recently. “One reason they’re good at the moment is they live and die on trust, and as soon as you lose trust in Google, it’s over for them.” Google’s claim on our trust is a fragile thing. After all, it’s hard to be a company whose mission is to give people all the information they want and to insist at the same time on deciding what information they get."

For the record, I and a number of friends have suffered from both corporate and government censorship on the internet. The government censorship was overturned but some of the corporate censorship (by Yahoo) continues as of this blog post.

read "Google’s Gatekeepers" NYT Mag 11/28/2008 | digg story

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