Google calls on governments to increase information flow

Open internet an "absolutely critical component" of the new information economy

Google is calling on governments to remove “onerous limits” on free information flow in order to realise the transformative economic benefits of the internet.

In a policy document, the internet giant claimed that the economic benefits of the internet were under threat, as increasing numbers of governments moved to impose limits on information flow.

“The international community must take action to ensure the free flow of information online,” the document reads. “Governments should honor existing international obligations including under the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement, prevent trade barriers created by information regulation, and develop new international rules that provide enhanced protection against these trade barriers of the 21st century.

To realise the full potential of the internet as a global marketplace and platform for innovation, policy makers needed to publicly highlight as unfair trade barriers those practices by governments that restrict or disrupt the flow of online information services.

They also needed to take "appropriate action" where government restrictions on the free flow of online information violated international trade rules, and establish new international trade rules under bilateral, regional, and multilateral agreements that provide further assurances in favour of the free flow of information on the internet.

“An open Internet has been and remains an absolutely critical component of the new information economy’s ability to empower individuals and create shared information markets,” the document reads.

“Closed systems are antithetical to the Internet’s success and will significantly disable its potential to support trade and innovation going forward.

However, governments around the world were restricting, censoring, and disrupting the free flow of online information in record numbers, according to the company.

“More than 40 governments now engage in broad-scale restriction of online information, a tenfold increase from just a decade ago,” the document reads.

“Today more governments are incorporating surveillance tools into their Internet infrastructure; blocking online services in their entirety; imposing new, secretive regulations; and requiring onerous licensing regimes that often discriminate against foreign companies.

“These actions unnecessarily restrict trade, and left unchecked, they will almost certainly get worse.”

Previously, and despite pursuing its own business interest in China, Google has been critical of Australia’s moves to restrict the flow of information on the Internet.

During December last year, the company expressed concern about the Federal Government’s plans to introduce a mandatory filtering regime for internet service providers (ISP) in Australia, arguing that the scope of content to be filtered is too wide.

Despite months of lobbying, a Google and iiNet-backed industry group, the Safer Internet Group (SIG), said in June that it had been unsuccessful in meeting with the communications minister, Stephen Conroy, to discuss their alternative to the Government’s proposed mandatory ISP-filter.

The office of the communications minister, Stephen Conroy, has been contacted for comment on the document.

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