Google's Eric Schmidt: Internet could make censorship impossible

NEW YORK -- You'll be seeing more revolutions like the one in Ukraine when another two billion people connect to the Internet in the next five years or so -- that's the view of Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google. Schmidt and the head of the Google ideas office, Jared Cohen, traveled to 40 countries, including authoritarian regimes, such as China and North Korea. They concluded the Internet is a force for liberation that cannot be stopped.



ERIC SCHMIDT: The Internet is a one-time power shift for individuals that allows individuals to see and hear things that they have never seen before -- they didn't know. So on the principle of transparency, a non-transparent government will be constantly surprised that the citizens not only didn't know what they were doing but are upset about it.

  
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Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen
CBS News
 SCOTT PELLEY:
China is one of those countries that continues to restrict the access of its citizens to information on the Internet. How do you imagine the future of China?

JARED COHEN: Well, something unique is going to happen in China, which is you will have a billion people come online in the next 10 years. One of the things that a lot of Chinese friends say to us is people in China -- they don't expect their government to be honest, but they do expect their economy to grow. So if the economy slows down, it brings to light a grievance that when all of a sudden there is close to 1.4 billion people online, people have the mechanisms to be able to start complaining about it.

ERIC SCHMIDT: In China, they have blocked the American social networks, all of them. But they have their own -- Weibo and WeChat are two examples. These are three and four hundred million people strong. It will be difficult to suppress legitimate speech, legitimate discussions on such broad social networks.

   SCOTT PELLEY: But technically possible.

ERIC SCHMIDT: Difficult. Possible, but difficult, especially given that a lot of people are now working to empower individuals. One of the things that Jared and I have spoken about is that it is probable that within a decade, the kind of sort of terrible censorship that is practiced by some governments will be effectively impossible. There are so many people working on ways around it.

SCOTT PELLEY: There's going to be a day when it is not possible for governments to censor their people?

ERIC SCHMIDT: We believe the empowerment for citizens is so strong, and some of the new tools and technologies will enable it.

   JARED COHEN: Nobody will ever be able to create a cult of personality again -- there will still be autocracies, there will still be civil wars, there will still be evil criminals, but the ability to create a totalitarian society has been eliminated like smallpox.



Schmidt announced Monday on "CBS This Morning" that he is giving $1 million to organizations that spread the Internet, especially to people living under repressive governments. Schmidt and Cohen have written a book about all of this called "The New Digital Age."
  • Scott Pelley

    Anchor and Managing Editor, "CBS Evening News;" Correspondent, "60 Minutes"

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