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Google chief gives Internet censorship warning

King of the Googlers, Eric Schmidt has warned that a clampdown on Internet use by dictatorial governments is on the cards.

Speaking at a conference in Ireland, the search engine giant's chairman said some governments wanted to gain control of the Internet in the same way they control television and other media, according to the BBC (opens in new tab).

He said that the problem of governments deciding what we are allowed to see on the Internet is getting worse. As we all know, it's Google's job to decide that, especially if it means the online advertising giant can turn a buck by doing so.

As we reported yesterday (opens in new tab), the frequency of government censorship requests relating to Google searches and other products owned by the company like YouTube saw a sudden increase in the six months between July and December 2010, the last period for which results are available.

Bearing in mind that the so-called Arab Spring started in the last two weeks of that period, we can confidently predict that the next set of figures, due to be released by Google in December 2011, will show a far greater increase in the number of take-down demands.

As undemocratic and dictatorial regimes realise that the Internet has the power to unseat them from their positions of power, there's little doubt that more plugs will be pulled, and more populations will be denied access to the Web, something the UN has declared as a basic human right, with the same importance as food, clean water and shelter.

When Google upped sticks form mainland China last year, electing instead to house its search infrastructure in Hong Kong in the face of increasingly draconian censorship from the Communist regime, it took a little of the power out of the hands of the Chinese government which keeps a tight reign on all forms of media including newspapers and television.

And Schmidt reckons other countries, whose non-elected elites can see their power being eroded by the democratising effect of the Internet, will soon be following suit.

"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 said.

Schmidt also admitted that he feared for the safety of Google employees in parts of the world where a free Internet was seen as a threat, after Google executive Wael Ghonim was detained in Egypt during the uprising against President Hosni Mubarak. monitors all leading technology stories and rounds them up to help you save time hunting them down.