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Google’s Brin clarifies: Facebook, Apple not as great a threat as gov’t censorship

sergey-brinGoogle co-founder Sergey Brin has issued a clarification on his earlier statements about threats to the open Internet, which were originally published in the Guardian newspaper on Monday. In a post on Google+, Brin writes that, while “walled gardens” like those of Facebook and Apple “are not as open as the Web itself,” they do not pose the same threat as government censorship.

Though Brin says the Guardian piece was a “good read,” it seems as though many secondary reports on the interview (including ours) misunderstood his words to mean that Facebook and Apple were just as threatening as government-imposed Internet censorship, like that found in China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.

Below, the key excerpt from Brin’s post:

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 U.S. 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. I have always admired Apple’s products. In fact, I am writing this post on an Imac and using an Apple keyboard I have cherished for the past seven years. Likewise, Facebook has helped to connect hundreds of millions of people, has been a key tool for political expression and has been instrumental to the Arab Spring. Both have made key contributions to the free flow of information around the world.

Earlier in the post, Brin notes that the Guardian piece quoted only a small portion of a conversation the Google co-founder had with the publication over a matter of months. He also says that “openness is a core value a Google,” but stipulates that there are “a number of areas” where the Internet giant “can improve.”

“But regardless of how you feel about digital ecosystems or about Google, please do not take the free and open internet for granted from government intervention,” writes Brin. “To the extent that free flow of information threatens the powerful, those in power will seek to suppress it.”