Eric Schmidt Thinks the Internet Will Kill Censorship

Schmidt and Cohen on CBS News.
Schmidt and Cohen on CBS News.

Google executive chairman (and former CEO) Eric Schmidt thinks the Internet will make censorship impossible.

In a recent interview with CBS News, Schmidt and Jared Cohen, who co-wrote The New Digital Age, suggested that too many people are looking for too many ways around state-sponsored censorship for the latter to remain effective for much longer.

“One of the things that Jared and I have spoken about is that it is probable that within a decade, the kind of sort of terrible censorship that is practiced by some governments will be effectively impossible,” Schmidt said. “There are so many people working on ways around it.”

In The New Digital Age, Schmidt and Cohen insist that the Internet will ultimately improve peoples’ lives, although the text sidesteps many of the thornier privacy and security issues raised by the increasing prevalence of the cloud. (“Schmidt and Cohen extolling the virtues of the cloud is like two corporate board-members of McDonald’s insisting that burgers are delicious and everyone in the world should eat them three times a day,” is how Slashdot summed up the book’s arguments.)

“Nobody will ever be able to create a cult of personality again,” Cohen suggested during the CBS interview. “There will still be autocracies, there will still be civil wars, there will still be evil criminals, but the ability to create a totalitarian society has been eliminated like smallpox.”

Whether the Internet can truly eliminate totalitarian governments—which have existed, in one form or another, since the dawn of humankind—is an open question. Despite the growing prevalence of Web-enabled devices, dictatorships around the world have managed to keep a headlock on their respective populations; even in those countries with “freer” governments, the Internet often remains restricted in some way. There’s quite a long way to go before censorship is “impossible,” as demonstrated by this recent infographic by whoishostingthis.com:

Internet Censorship World Map

Images: CBS News, whoishostingthis.com