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This article was published on April 18, 2012

Google’s Sergey Brin says coverage of his views on Internet freedom was “distorted”

Google’s Sergey Brin says coverage of his views on Internet freedom was “distorted”
Jamillah Knowles
Story by

Jamillah Knowles

Jamillah is the UK Editor for The Next Web. She's based in London. You can hear her on BBC Radio 5Live's Outriders. Follow on Twitter @jemi Jamillah is the UK Editor for The Next Web. She's based in London. You can hear her on BBC Radio 5Live's Outriders. Follow on Twitter @jemimah_knight or drop a line to [email protected]

Google co-founder Sergey Brin has published a post on his Google+ account seeking to clarify the article on Web freedom that ran in the Guardian on Sunday.

To describe his reasons for a further update on the topic Brin says “I believe the internet has been one of the greatest forces for good in the world over the past quarter century. So when the Guardian requested that I speak to them over the past few months about internet freedom, I decided it was important to participate.

“I think the article is a pretty good read but is a short summary of a long discussion. My thoughts got particularly distorted in the secondary coverage in a way that distracts from my central tenets so I think they are worth clarifying here.”

The lengthy article in the Guardian already covers a lot of detail about Brin’s life and the background of Google as well as many salient points relating to Web freedom.

It seems that Brin feels that secondary coverage, where other outlets referenced the original article but only took a headline or failed to add context, were missing the point of his strong beliefs on the matter.

Brin’s own post about Web freedom is to the point on the subject.

“Today, the primary threat by far to internet freedom is government filtering of political dissent. This has been far more effective than I ever imagined possible across a number of nations. In addition, other countries such as the US have come close to adopting very similar techniques in order to combat piracy and other vices. I believe these efforts have been misguided and dangerous.

Lastly in the interview came the subject of digital ecosystems that are not as open as the web itself and I think this portion has led to some misunderstanding of my views. So to clarify, I certainly do not think this issue is on a par with government based censorship. Moreover, I have much admiration for two of the companies we discussed — Apple and Facebook.”

The main headline that spun the original article across the Web and lost most of its context was the idea that Brin was against his own company’s style of growth. This is not quite the case as he clarifies,

So what was my concern and what about Google for that matter?
I became an entrepreneur during the 90’s, the boom time of what you might now call Web 1.0. Yahoo created a directory of all the sites they could find without asking anyone for permission. Ebay quickly became the largest auction company in the world without having to pay a portion of revenue to any ISP. Paypal became the most successful payment company and Amazon soared in e-commerce also without such tolls or any particular company’s permission.

Today, starting such a service would entail navigating a number of new tollbooths and gatekeepers. If you are interested in this issue I recommend you read http://futureoftheinternet.org/ by +Jonathan Zittrain. While openness is a core value at Google, there are a number of areas where we can improve too (as the book outlines).”

Distortion over time and distance

When posts and reposts of articles online spread across the web, it is easy for important details and writing finesses to be lost in the process. The information can degrade through each new translation.

It is interesting to see Brin posting his own voice on a social network, especially as he has described himself as being “…not a very social person…” in the past. Naturally as he is seen as a leader on the Web he has many followers and an enormous audience to speak to.

The magazine-style article in the Guardian was more general and very informative to a broader audience that might not be ardent tech fans. It is possible that if technology leaders would prefer to share opinions and experience without the surrounding and supporting information, that self-publishing in this way might be a preferable option.

As it stands, we will probably see a second round of dissemination and re-translation again as Brin’s post does the rounds in the coming days.

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