Category Archives: Internet Freedom

Google and the Deep State

On Google’s integration with DC elite/deep state: Nothing nefarious, but dangerous to integrate business & politics.

Some excerpts:

State Department cables released as part of Cablegate reveal that Cohen had been in Afghanistan in 2009, trying to convince the four major Afghan mobile phone companies to move their antennas onto US military bases.16 In Lebanon he quietly worked to establish an intellectual and clerical rival to Hezbollah, the “Higher Shia League.”17 And in London he offered Bollywood movie executives funds to insert anti-extremist content into their films, and promised to connect them to related networks in Hollywood.18
Three days after he visited me at Ellingham Hall, Jared Cohen flew to Ireland to direct the “Save Summit,” an event cosponsored by Google Ideas and the Council on Foreign Relations. Gathering former inner-city gang members, right-wing militants, violent nationalists, and “religious extremists” from all over the world together in one place, the event aimed to workshop technological solutions to the problem of “violent extremism.”19 What could go wrong?

Gen Next’s “private sector and non-profit foundation support avoids some of the potential perceived conflicts of interest faced by initiatives funded by governments.”22 Jared Cohen is an executive member. . . .

In 2011, the Alliance of Youth Movements rebranded as “” In 2012 became a division of “Advancing Human Rights,” a new NGO set up by Robert L. Bernstein after he resigned from Human Rights Watch (which he had originally founded) because he felt it should not cover Israeli and US human rights abuses.28 Advancing Human Rights aims to right Human Rights Watch’s wrong by focusing exclusively on “dictatorships.”29 Cohen stated that the merger of his outfit with Advancing Human Rights was “irresistible,” pointing to the latter’s “phenomenal network of cyberactivists in the Middle East and North Africa.”

I began to think of Schmidt as a brilliant but politically hapless Californian tech billionaire who had been exploited by the very US foreign-policy types he had collected to act as translators between himself and official Washington—a West Coast–East Coast illustration of the principal-agent dilemma.35

I was wrong. . . .

On a personal level, Schmidt and Cohen are perfectly likable people. But Google’s chairman is a classic “head of industry” player, with all of the ideological baggage that comes with that role.44 Schmidt fits exactly where he is: the point where the centrist, liberal, and imperialist tendencies meet in American political life. By all appearances, Google’s bosses genuinely believe in the civilizing power of enlightened multinational corporations, and they see this mission as continuous with the shaping of the world according to the better judgment of the “benevolent superpower.” They will tell you that open-mindedness is a virtue, but all perspectives that challenge the exceptionalist drive at the heart of American foreign policy will remain invisible to them. This is the impenetrable banality of “don’t be evil.” They believe that they are doing good. And that is a problem. . . .

Nobody wants to acknowledge that Google has grown big and bad. But it has. Schmidt’s tenure as CEO saw Google integrate with the shadiest of US power structures as it expanded into a geographically invasive megacorporation. But Google has always been comfortable with this proximity. Long before company founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin hired Schmidt in 2001, their initial research upon which Google was based had been partly funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).48 And even as Schmidt’s Google developed an image as the overly friendly giant of global tech, it was building a close relationship with the intelligence community. . . .

Wikimedia, Microsoft’s Bing search engine, reddit, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation each announced plans to protect their site visitors by using secure HTTPS connections by default

Congratulations to Wikimedia, Microsoft’s Bing search engine, and reddit for announcing this week their intention to switch their websites over to encrypted HTTPS connections by default.

Using an HTTPS connection helps protect the privacy of what people are doing online—making them more willing to read and write about controversial topics. It stops network operators from easily snooping on users’ reading habits, profiling the users’ activity within sites, invisibly altering or censoring web site content, or even injecting malware.