Google's Eric Schmidt talks WikiLeaks with founder Julian Assange
Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, who runs Google Ideas, met with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in June 2011, according to a transcript released by WikiLeaks.
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“He sees the Internet as a great equalizing force to give voices to the voiceless and to challenge governments and regimes,” says Mr. Gutterman, an associate professor at the Newhouse School of Public Communications. “In some ways he's right, in some ways he's a little off. The power of being able to command a global audience to disseminate information in a variety of formats is really undeniable.”Skip to next paragraph
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Assange debated the power of disseminating that information with Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Cohen and its morality. At one point, he asks that Google leak information.
“We wouldn't mind a leak from Google, which would be, I think probably all the Patriot Act requests,” Assange says.
One of the biggest concerns, however, was the US government’s requests for data on users. Officials have used the Patriot Act up to 999 times a year to ask Google to provide information, where they’re listed as National Security letters, as Quartz notes. Because those letters are meant to be secret, Google does not list specific numbers.
Amid the debate among the three of them, Schmidt says he has criticisms about the Patriot Act because of its lack of transparency. However, he maintains that Google would not take the risk and break the law.
“The answer is that the laws are quite clear about Google and the US. We couldn’t do it. It would be illegal,” he responded.
Mr. Gutterman describes Assange as a hybrid activist and journalist, making comparisons to former CIA official Daniel Ellsberg and his leaking of the Pentagon Papers. Talking to Assange allows Schmidt and Cohen to see how the Internet may be shaped by different power players, from government officials to the people. The documents released by WikiLeaks also gives a glimpse into the political conflicts that continue to unfold on the Web.
“Nowadays most people can create their own website their own document dump,” he said. “It shows how the media landscape has changed in the last four years.”
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[Editor's Note: The original version of this article misidentified where professor Roy Gutterman works. He works in the Newhouse School of Public Communications and is in charge of the Tully Center for Free Speech.]