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Google's Eric Schmidt: Blocking file-sharing sites would make U.S., Britain like China

May 18, 2011 |  5:49 pm

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Eric Schmidt, Google's executive chairman, said on Wednesday that proposals from the U.S. and British governments to block Internet access to file-sharing websites would endanger freedom of speech and push both countries toward being more like China, according to a report.

"I would be very, very careful if I were a government about arbitrarily [implementing] simple solutions to complex problems," Schmidt said, according to a report from the Guardian.

Schmidt, who made the remarks in a keynote speech at Google's Big Tent conference in London, was likely referencing Britain's Digital Economy Act, which allows courts to mandate that specific websites be blocked, and the Protect IP bill in the U.S. that would block illegal file-sharing sites by cutting off access to their domain name system, or DNS.

"So, 'let's whack off the DNS'," Schmidt said, according to the Guardian. "OK, that seems like an appealing solution but it sets a very bad precedent because now another country will say 'I don't like free speech so I'll whack off all those DNSs' -- that country would be China.

"It doesn't seem right. I would be very, very careful about that stuff. If [the British government does] it the wrong way it could have disastrous precedent setting in other areas."

Schmidt said that if such laws were to pass in the U.S. or Britain, Google might not agree to cooperate.

"If there is a law that requires DNSs, to do X and it's passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the president of the United States and we disagree with it then we would still fight it," he said, according to the report. "If it's a request the answer is we wouldn't do it, if it's a discussion we wouldn't do it."

Journalists in attendance at the Google conference asked Schmidt to comment about Facebook's admission to secretly paying the Burson-Marsteller public relations firm to pitch negative stories about Google to reporters and bloggers in the U.S., but he declined to talk specifically about Facebook's role in the controversy, the Guardian said.

But, he did say that some of the stories Burson-Marsteller was attempting to plant didn't pan out as agency at one time had hoped.

"A lot of people -- not Google employees -- have looked at these claims and generally found them to be false," Schmidt said in the report.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

Photo: Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, speaks during an event at the American Academy in Berlin. Credit: Michele Tantussi/Bloomberg

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