Does the Internet help keep governments honest?

Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt believes the Internet is a tool that can help citizens keep their governments honest.

“In nations and communities around the world, citizens are turning to online tools to keep their governments honest,” Schmidt told business leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Honolulu.


“Whistleblowing has never been so easy. Online citizens can find like-minded allies, they can find like-minded diasporas from a country.”


To illustrate his point, Schmidt discussed the anti-government movements in Tunisia and Egypt and how both were coordinated through various social media platforms.

What Schmidt is saying certainly sounds good, but is the Google exec really promoting digital rebellion in front of 21 heads of government – or is he subtly warning them of what to look out for in their countries?


I mean, APEC is a powerful economic group that had President Obama in attendance over the weekend. It seems odd that they invited the head of a mega corporation who openly supports keeping all of their desires for power in check.


If Schmidt is serious then I may have to rethink some of the negative feelings I have about Google. It just seems the conference wouldn’t ask him to present such ideas in front of group of many people who control world events.


Do you really think they want to hear about how the people should use the Internet to limit their ability to wield power?


It’s most likely lip service to keep the public under the impression that Google cares more about personal freedom than it does forging powerful ties with government.


But, I could be wrong.


If Google really cares about innovation and economic development on a free and open Internet then they should prove it by using their influence to shut down all of the Internet censorship bills that are floating around our government’s legislative buildings.


Schmidt’s words sound really good, especially when he speaks them in front of government officials whose administrations have all dabbled in trying to limit information. But when it comes time to decide what laws will govern the Internet, will Google remain on the side of open networks, or will they side with the government for their own well-being?


I’d love it if Schmidt takes Google in a direction where the compant puts the health of the industry first, but large corporations have a habit of siding with the government when push comes to shove.


If Google resists the multiple attempts to regulate content on the Internet, then it will make it very hard for those laws to become law. If Schmidt’s words are more than lip service, then Google will soon have many opportunities to prove it isn’t just blowing smoke up our hard drives.