Google chairman warns of censorship after Arab Spring

People's silhouettes in front of the Google logo Google has already found itself at odds with some countries, such as China, over censorship

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The use of the web by Arab democracy movements could lead to some states cracking down harder on internet freedoms, Google's chairman says.

Speaking at a conference in Ireland, Eric Schmidt said some governments wanted to regulate the internet the way they regulated television.

He also said he feared his colleagues faced a mounting risk of occasional arrest and torture in such countries.

The internet was widely used during the so-called Arab Spring.

Protesters used social networking sites to organise rallies and communicate with those outside their own country, such as foreign media, amid tight restrictions on state media.

'Completely wired'

Mr Schmidt said he believed the "problem" of governments trying to limit internet usage was going to "get worse".

Start Quote

In most of these countries, television is highly regulated because the leaders, partial dictators, half dictators or whatever you want to call them understand the power of television”

End Quote Eric Schmidt Executive Chairman, Google

"The reason is that as the technology becomes more pervasive and as the citizenry becomes completely wired and the content gets localised to the language of the country, it becomes an issue like television."

"If you look at television in most of these countries, television is highly regulated because the leaders, partial dictators, half dictators or whatever you want to call them understand the power of television imagery to keep their citizenry in some bucket," he added.

Google has regularly clashed with China over attempts to limit public access to its internet services.

Mr Schmidt also said he was concerned about the danger faced by employees of the company in parts of the world that deemed material found on its search engine illegal.

He said he would not directly name the countries because of the sensitivity of the situation.

During the uprising in Egypt, Google executive Wael Ghonim was detained by Egyptian authorities after taking part in the protests that led to the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak.

Mr Ghonim had been involved in founding an anti-torture Facebook page that helped inspire demonstrations.

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