Thursday, August 23, 2007

Eric Schmidt at PFF: what Internet freedom means to us

“Freedom” is a word that gets used a lot in Washington, but what does it mean, exactly, for Google and its users? Tuesday night, our CEO Eric Schmidt told the Progress & Freedom Foundation’s annual Aspen Summit that freedom and openness are the core principles that helped make possible the Internet's – and Google's -- birth and growth.

The Internet was built on open standards, Eric noted, and that those platforms are really platforms of economic opportunity and free expression. Free markets and open standards have led to so much innovation, that it’s usually best for government not to rush into regulating new technology. And he cited both political empowerment (such as the YouTube presidential debates) and economic empowerment (like the $3 billion that we paid out to website owners last year through our advertising partnerships) as the fruits of Internet freedom.

In the policy arena, Eric offered three specific calls to action. First, he said we need to defend freedom of speech as more speech comes online – and give teeth to the issue by pressing governments to classify censorship as a trade barrier. Second, we need to continue working toward universal broadband access, by government collaborating with industry and making sure that networks remain content neutral. And third, he called on government to be more transparent to its citizens – citing as an example our Sitemaps partnership with the federal government and five state governments.

But freedom wasn’t the only thing on Eric’s mind Tuesday. The PFF crowd was particularly interested in Google’s positions on both the upcoming 700 MHz spectrum auction and on net neutrality (and posed a few questions skeptical of our stance). Without announcing any definitive plans to bid, and cautioning that we're still carefully evaluating our options, Eric indicated that Google “probably” would decide to participate in the auction.

Check out the complete video of Eric’s talk, and tell us what freedom on the 'Net means to you.


Drywall said...

Way to be fearless and speak out while in belly of the "free market" beast. Competition should be the goal, not a light regulatory touch for its own sake.

Dar said...

Internet freedom is important. The Internet is what allowed us to learn about Ron Paul, a defender of freedom.

In the backstory to the upcoming movie "Nightmare City 2035", the people are told that the Internet "crashed". In a short time a totalitarian government took over. In this cautionary tale by Terry Winkless, technology is used to suppress freedom.

If the Internet is not kept free, then we may find our view of the world distorted, a lie, as in this movie.

Privacy said...

Ironic that they're talking openness in an area that is known for outright exclusion. An area that would be quite fitting for those from the Stanford background. The only openness is the sky, which would be bought to exclusion if possible.

Perhaps if it were somewhere that was more accessible, there wouldn't be such hypocrisy. But then that's probably the way of Stanford.

allwyn said...

Here is an example of how an Internet MNC like Google can inadvertently aid ill-equipped police forces in emerging markets and authoritarian regimes put people behind bars for absolutely no fault of theirs. It reiterates the point that those interested in the freedom of the Internet have been making – that the Internet must be kept free of govt control, else you would have horrendous cases of miscarriage of justice in countries where these values are not appreciated much any way. In this case, the real mistake was committed by Airtel, an Indian telephone company and Internet service provider. Airtel’s response has been one of indifference. Worse, it has been hounding the man it helped put in jail for not paying his Internet service bill, though one can't pay bills from jail!

Innocent techie spends 50 days in jail

Wrongly Accused Of Defaming Shivaji On Net

Ketan Tanna | TNN

Mumbai: In the early hours of the morning of August 31, Lakshmana Kailash K was asleep in his home in Bangalore . He was woken up by eight policemen from Pune who came knocking on his door and waved the Information Technology Act, 2000, in his sleepy, terrified face. Get dressed, he was told, we are taking you to Pune for having defamed Shivaji.
Lakshmana protested that he didn’t know anyone called Shivaji. The policemen said that they were talking about Chhatrapati Shivaji, and that an insulting picture of him had been uploaded on the internet networking site Orkut. The cyber trail had led them to his computer in Bangalore .
Turning a deaf ear to his protests, the police took him to Pune and put him behind bars. Along the way, the 26-year-old Lakshmana, who works with HCL, learned that what he was being arrested for was a case that had triggered riots in Pune in November 2006. Political parties had forcibly closed cafes and gone on the rampage over the posting of the illustration which had poked fun at Shivaji. New to the ways of cyber crime, the police took over ten months to trace the alleged source.
Google, which owns Orkut, had cooperated with them but the vital IP address (computer number) was provided by the service provider Bharti (Airtel). Bharti said that the IP address belonged to a Lakshmana K who lived in a Bangalore apartment with friends.
His first bail plea was rejected. Finally, on October 20, after spending 50 days with 200 undertrials at Yervada Jail, Lakshmana was released. Sorry, said the police, the IP address given to us was wrong. We are sorry, said Airtel, and “deeply distressed by the severe inconvenience caused to the customer’’.
To add insult to injury, the police released Laskshmana nearly three weeks after they claimed to have picked up the “real culprits’’ on October 3— three Bangalore boys from Koramangala, all in judicial custody. Asked about the earlier arrest, assistant commissioner Netaji Shinde says, “Yes, we made a mistake. So what?’’
Bharti was a little more contrite but made no mention of compensation. “We are in touch with the customer. We have robust internal processes which we review frequently to make them more stringent,’’ said Airtel in a written response to TOI. “We have conducted a thorough investigation of the matter and will take appropriate action.’’
Lakshmana’s ordeal has uncanny resonances of Kafka’s ‘The Trial’, the more so because his name has the same initial K as Kafka’s hapless protagonist. K is arrested one morning before breakfast on a non-charge and is left to battle the state’s mindless might. Lakshmana was charged under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code for a deliberate and malicious act intended to outrage religious feelings, and Section 67 of the Information Technology Act for publishing ‘lascivious’ material or material that ‘appeals to the prurient interest’.

Times View

This is a shocking case. The police can’t get away with a mere apology after wrongly charging Lakshmana Kailash and putting him in jail for 50 days on the basis of a “mistake’’. The cops may argue that they acted in good faith and the error was made by the telecom company. But wasn’t the mistake compounded because of poor police work? In fact, it’s because of police sloppiness—or is it arrogance?—that the youngster has suffered this nightmare. Currently, the law doesn’t allow for suing the police and other authorities for such mistakes. The law must be changed so that hapless persons like Lakshmana can demand and get compensation for being gravely wronged. That will also force the police to be careful while exercising their vast powers.

Jail played havoc with techie health

Mumbai: Bangalore techie Lakshmana Kailash K was charged under the IPC and the Information Technology Act. The latter charge carries a punishment of five years’ and gives the police the right to search cyber cafes and residences without a warrant.
Like Kafka’s K, Lakshmana tried initially to be brave. But he cracked when he was made to pose for a photograph with a black slate carrying his father’s name and his alleged crime. “It hurt me a lot that my father, who is a retired banker in Tirunelveli, was being associated with a crime. I just broke down,’’ he says.
“We were given a vati (bowl) which we had to eat and drink from and even take to the toilet. The long queues for filling water in the vati was our survival routine,’’ says Lakshmana. The three-in-one bowl system hit him hard. His kidney stones started acting up and his health deteriorated rapidly. “Because of depression and the bad food, I lost 12 kilos,’’ he says. “I now even have an enlarged liver because of the food and the stress.’’
He’s back home now trying to put it all behind him. HCL has been supportive but Lakshmana is not sure whether his job still exists. “I have forgotten coding. I need to start all over again,’’ he says. Asked if he planned to sue for compensation, Lakshmana is philosophical. “My family is considering it. Right now, I’m just beginning to appreciate the small things in life. It’s good to have a toilet to oneself. It’s good to have clean drinking water. It’s good to have family to quarrel with.’’
Two days after he returned to Bangalore , Airtel got in touch. But it wasn’t about the arrest. They sent him a text message reminding him to pay his bill. The text message was followed up by a visit from a collection agent. “I told them it’s all because of you that I haven’t paid,’’ says Lakshmana. “We can’t pay bills from jail.’’ ###

Times Impact

Techie case: State govt, policemen get MSHRC notice

Ketan Tanna | TNN

Mumbai: Taking suo motu cognisance of a report in the The Times of India on how Bangalore IT professional K Lakshmana was jailed for 50 days on false charges of defaming Shivaji, the Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission (MSHRC) has issued notices to the state government, the chief secretary, additional chief secretary (home), DGP, Mumbai, and commissioner and assistant commissioner of police, Pune city, for “breach of (Lakshmana’s) human rights’’.
In a one-page notice, MSHRC chairperson Justice Khsitij R Vyas said the mental agony and torture suffered by Lakshmana was an evidence of the “sorry state of affairs in a country where every citizen has a right to live, move and breathe freely’’. These rights cannot be taken away at whim or in a careless manner as has been done in this case, Justice Vyas said, adding, “We are living in democracy where the rule of law prevails. There is no place for jungle raj where anybody can be picked up and put behind bars. The fact that Lakshmana’s bail plea was rejected by the court shows the manner in which the police had collected material against him with the sole objective of branding him an accused.’’ The special IGP of the MSHRC’s investigation wing has been directed to seize the case papers and produce it before the panel.
Meanwhile, Lakshmana said he was happy that his innocence had been proved. ###