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Google’s Brin Bashes Hollywood, China, Facebook as Enemies of Internet Freedom

April 16, 2012

Sergey Brin

Google co-founder Sergey Brin unloaded on Facebook, Apple, anti-piracy advocates, and government censors in an exclusive interview with the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper published Sunday. Brin referenced "very powerful forces that have lined up against the open Internet on all sides and around the world," telling the paper that he didn't think it would be possible to create the company he founded with Larry Page in today's climate.

Brin, who reportedly took a lead role in confronting China over Internet censorship in 2010, said he had been proven wrong in his belief that it wouldn't be possible for an authoritarian government to restrict the Internet for very long.

"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 told the The Guardian.

Government censorship like China's, which has been emulated by other regimes around the world, combined with efforts by the entertainment industry to control the flow of information over the Internet, and what he criticized as the "restrictive" practices of Facebook and Apple have left Brin troubled, he told the newspaper.

"I am more worried than I have been in the past. It's scary," he said.

Brin said the amount of control Facebook and Apple exercise over their online platforms and user base was "stifling innovation" and "balkanising the Web."

"There's a lot to be lost," he told The Guardian. "For example, all the information in apps—that data is not crawlable by Web crawlers. You can't search it."

The Google co-founder, 38, claimed Facebook's model in particular was a problem.

"You have to play by their rules, which are really restrictive," Brin told the newspaper. "The kind of environment that we developed Google in, the reason that we were able to develop a search engine, is the Web was so open. Once you get too many rules, that will stifle innovation."

He also had harsh words for what he described as the entertainment industry's attempts to "control the Internet" through a legislatively driven crackdown on online piracy. Brin said Hollywood was "shooting itself in the foot, or maybe worse than in the foot" by pushing U.S. legislators to pass legislation like the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA).

While those bills stalled in Congress, in part due to objections from Google, Wikipedia, and other Internet industry heavyweights, Brin accused the backers of such laws of trying to enact rules that he claimed would have a similar effect on Internet freedoms as censorship imposed by the governments of China, Saudi Arabia, and Iran.

Such proposed laws were also counterproductive for big content providers as well, he said.

"I haven't tried it for many years but when you go on a pirate website, you choose what you like; it downloads to the device of your choice and it will just work—and then when you have to jump through all these hoops [to buy legitimate content], the walls created are disincentives for people to buy," Brin told The Guardian.




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