This week, Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman, was quoted as saying during a speech in Washington: “We can end government censorship in a decade. The solution to government surveillance is to encrypt everything.”
If anyone has the power to implement this technology widely, it’s Google. Here’s what they could do to effectively end online censorship in China, not in 10 years, but in just 10 days:
- Google needs to first switch its China search engine (google.com.hk) to https by default. It has already done this in the US. This means that Chinese netizens using Google would be taken to encrypted version of search engine – https://www.google.com.hk. The great firewall of China cannot selectively block search results on thousands of sensitive terms if the encrypted version is used.
- Google holds the best list of blocked websites, everywhere in the world. If the website is blocked, Google can redirect the user to a mirrored version of the same website.
Just two simple steps and Google could end online censorship by the end of this month in China. Before new year Google could do this for entire world.
Google is big enough that the Chinese authorities would not dare block it completely. They tried it once before and backed down after a day. Given how essential Google is to so many individuals and businesses blocking the company entirely would have disastrous economic consequences for China.
Every time you click on a Google search result that takes you to a blocked website, Google can detect that the site is blocked. It would be easy for Google to make a change to its search engine, so that when you click on a blocked link, you are redirected to an unblocked version of the page, hosted on an unblockable proxy. Google is already halfway there. Google caches most internet pages and provides them to users. The cache is hosted on a separate domain, which is blocked in China but Google can simply host the cache on a subpath to bypass the block.
The window of opportunity is open for Google to make its move. Google could do all this in the blink of an eye. We estimate it would take a small team at Google about 10 days of work – but this is Google we are talking about. They could likely do this over late-night tofu pizza.
There must be Google employees who have already proposed doing what we are suggesting. While Schmidt may feel that he needs to speak out to others on causes that he and the co-founders of Google feel are important, he should not lose sight of his company’s own ability to bring about these changes.