I’ve been to an interesting event Nov. 3rd >>Breaking Borders<< a commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Google has decided to celebrate by launching a new YouTube channel dedicated to free expression and invited a small illustrious circle of media, politicians, human rights associations to listen to few keynotes and a panel + the unevitable shake hands. No understatement required, so it was Berlins premier Hotel de Rome Google invited us to. But why’s that? The evening before November 4th, the day the wall came down 20 years ago was the hook-line to talk about the right and options to express oneself freely on the internet today. The Berlin Wall became an unexpected world symbol for freedom and dignity when former GDR citizens manifested their political rights back in 1989. At the time, meetings and posters served to break ideological and physical borders that had divided Germany and the world for over forty years. So it’s pretty obvious, why Google came uzp with the idea to use this anniversary as a kick-board for their message: You got the right to express yourself freely online, do so! And Google is providing the infrastructure.
When I was still busy remembering what Googles role was like when they agreed to let chinese government censor their service, Rachel Whetstone Vice President, Public Policy and Communications – that means world wide boss lobbyist – picked on this issue herself: Golden Shield Project, she told us, was discussed very controversially within Google. The fact of cooperating on some very dubious censorship laws with a regime whose human rights record is at best maculature. But now Google turned around (?) and decided its tools can be used as a force for good. ‘This channel is designed to feature your stories and reflections on free expression,” wrote Annette Kroeber-Riel, Senior European Policy Counsel at Google, on the firm’s blog. “Tell us about how you or someone you know has taken a stand for free expression. Perhaps you’ve protested against something you didn’t agree with, taken action when someone else’s free speech was being suppressed or been inspired by someone who has stood up for the right to speak out.”
Clever move. Telling us about how controversy the debate has been gong on inside Google before and ever since and not to disguise Googles main objectives – to earn money…
Back to the day, the wall came down – two decades later, the efforts for freedom and political change continue, with the Internet as its ubiquitous ally. Today’s internet is playing a pivotal role in advancing participatory democracy around the globe, or at least in advancing free speech. Bloggers and citizen journalists of all political systems are using web based and mobile technology to communicate injustices and irregularities where traditional media fails – or is getting censored. Associations like Journalists without frontiers or Global Voices know this and need to cooperate with Google. But to get it straight – Google is not a benefactor, but a corporate thing and as such it follows the rule of capitalism and not of humanity. And there is a serious deal of critics and fears regarding Google.
Today Google has become the main interface of our reality. Everything you want (or need) to know, buy, learn, post, communicate, display, hide, store, … is currently handled by one power and it’s executives. And this is exactly what people need to fear from every single monopolistic system, from a dictatorship to market leadership: That the subject and the vocabulary with which a subject can be criticized as well as the sources you get this vocabulary from are designed and handled by the same power – which by definition is hegemony. I do not imply or acuse Google to follow some dark plan (like I said, they are a corporate business, and therefore their plan is rather predictable and transparent), no, their intention can be a good one, BUT old Cleobulus was even one of the Seven Sages of Greece but still he was what he was – a tyran.
Presumably the new service is not available in China.
Read Ms Whetstones blog here