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Google: Blocking file-sharing endangers Freedom of Speech

May 19, 2011

By Colin Mann

Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman, has said that proposals from the US and British governments to block Internet access to file-sharing websites would endanger freedom of speech and push both countries toward being more like China.

“I would be very, very careful if I were a government about arbitrarily [implementing] simple solutions to complex problems,” Schmidt said, according to a report from The Guardian.

Schmidt’s remarks came in a keynote speech at Google’s Big Tent conference in London, and alluded to Britain’s Digital Economy Act, which allows courts to mandate that specific websites be blocked, and the Protect IP bill in the US that would block illegal file-sharing sites by cutting off access to their domain name system, or DNS.

“So, ‘let’s whack off the DNS’,” Schmidt said. “OK, that seems like an appealing solution, but it sets a very bad precedent because now another country will say ‘I don’t like free speech so I’ll whack off all those DNSs’ – that country would be China.”

Schmidt recommended caution, suggesting that if the British government did it the wrong way, “it could have disastrous precedent setting in other areas.” He said that if such laws were to be implemented in the US or Britain, Google might not agree to co-operate.

The company subsequently said that Schmidt’s comments were not a signal it is ready to violate content protection laws it does not agree with.

“Of course we abide by the law in every country we do business,” said a Google spokesperson. “We respect what the Protect IP Act is trying to accomplish and we’re working closely with Congress to make sure the bill targets sites dedicated to piracy while protecting free expression and legitimate sites.”

Categories: Articles, Content, Piracy, Policy, Regulation