Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Mountain View, CA, United States (4E) – Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google and former executive chairman of its parent company, Alphabet, Inc,predicts the existence of two distinct internets in the next decade: one led by the U.S. and the other by China.
At a recent forum, Schnidt was asked about the possibility of the internet fragmenting into different sub-internets ruled by different regulations and having limited access between them.
“I think the most likely scenario now is not a splintering, but rather a bifurcation into a Chinese-led internet and a non-Chinese internet led by America,” he answered.
“If you look at China, and I was just there, the scale of the companies that are being built, the services being built, the wealth that is being created is phenomenal. Chinese Internet is a greater percentage of the GDP of China, which is a big number, than the same percentage of the U.S., which is also a big number.
“If you think of China as like ‘Oh yeah, they’re good with the Internet,’ you’re missing the point. Globalization means that they get to play too. I think you’re going to see fantastic leadership in products and services from China. There’s a real danger that along with those products and services comes a different leadership regime from government, with censorship, controls, etc.
“Look at the way BRI works – their Belt and Road Initiative, which involves 60-ish countries – it’s perfectly possible those countries will begin to take on the infrastructure that China has with some loss of freedom.”
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) or the Silk Road Economic Belt is a Chinese development strategy aimed at boosting China’s role in global affairs by using a China-centered trading network. It consists of a “belt” or the overland interconnecting infrastructure corridors and the “road” or the maritime infrastructure such as seaports. It also includes digital trade between China and countries in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
Schmidt, however, failed to address the most pressing issue confronting his former company: “Project Dragonfly.” This Google project pushed by Schmidt’s successor, Sundar Pichai, is developing a censored version of its search engine for use in China.
The project includes means to suppress search results; removing results deemed subversive by China from the first search page, and a means to fully block results for sensitive queries. It will also allow Chinese censors to uncover the mobile phone numbers of users using the Dragonfly search engine.
In recent weeks, hundreds of Google employees signed a letter saying Project Dragonfly raises “urgent moral and ethical issues.” In reply, Pichai said Google has been “in an exploration stage for quite a while now,” and is considering “many options,” but is nowhere near launching in China.”
Dragonfly,” a self-censoring mobile search engine being developed by Google exclusively for use in China, is a lot scarier than first thought. China will use this tool to suppress dissent.
Dragonfly is a joint venture between Google and a Chinese-based company. It will be launched amid what Human Rights Watch calls a “broad and sustained offensive on human rights” by Chinese president Xi Jinping.
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