Google’s mixed messages on Internet freedom

March 29, 2010

Google continues to send very mixed messages to the world about Internet freedom.

While Google’s PR machine has focused world attention on it’s decision to stop censoring its search results in China, (which I commend Google for finally fulfilling), Google has downplayed its activist lobbying of governments around the world to mandate national net neutrality restrictions on the Internet.

  • Like a ten-year-old that plays with matches and starts a fire he can’t control… Google has been lobbying foreign governments hard to preemptively restrict Internet behavior, but when China continued to restrict Internet behavior the way it always had, Google claimed to be shocked, shocked, that a nation would restrict the Internet in their own national way and for their own national purposes and not the way Google wanted them to restrict Internet behavior…

Think about it. Is there any more mixed message than Google asking a foreign government to mandate a restrictive national net neutrality law or regulation to preserve Google’s “innovation without permission” ethos?

  • Don’t regulations and laws generally restrict freedoms and require permissions from Government — not the other way around?

Isn’t Google also sending mixed messages by proactively asking governments around the world to assert their national sovereignty and mandate new net neutrality Internet restrictions for their particular nation, but then withdrawing from a market like China, precisely because they have asserted their national sovereignty to impose Internet restrictions?

Google’s actions in China have others wondering where all this will lead:

  • A New York Times editorial: “Google searches for a foreign policy” — actually encourages Google to have its own foreign policy.
  • An excellent analysis in the Financial Times by Richard Waters and Joseph Menn, “Closing the frontier” spotlights that “the world wide web is becoming balkanised” as governments increasingly attempt to assert control over the Internet.

The big takeaway here is that Google and others lobbying foreign governments to preemptively mandate net neutrality restrictions in the name of an Open Internet are unwittingly accomplishing the exact opposite of their stated goals.

  • The naive assumption of net neutrality proponents is that foreign governments will change their laws and regulations to advantage and permanently entrench dominant American web companies and American interests.
  • The cold reality is that many foreign governments will use the net neutrality call for government action as political cover to advance their own national economic/cultural interests — with the unfortunate destructive result of balkanizing the current near universal Internet.
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