The Great Debate

Google, google everywhere

CEBIT/The following is a post by Stephen Adler, editorial director of Thomson Reuters professional, that was taken from one of his blog posts at aif.thomsonreuters.com. Adler is a moderator at some of the panels at the Aspen Ideas Festival, which runs through July 11. Thomson Reuters is one of the sponsors of the event. The opinions expressed are Adler’s own.

Do a Google search for David Drummond and you’ll learn, amidst the 211,000 hits, that he is Google’s senior vice president and chief legal counsel. What you won’t learn is that he’s an especially eloquent spokesperson for his employer as it tries to live by its own “Don’t Be Evil” rule in a world of complicated choices. You need to come to the Aspen Ideas Festival to learn that — or you could watch a video of him on You Tube, which is also, of course, owned by Google.

Google is on everyone’s mind because it has so quickly become essential to our lives and a powerful disrupter of orthodoxies. It always seems to be on the front lines, on one side or the other, in big societal battles over such issues as censorship, the right to privacy, the meaning of copyright, the evolution of 21st century antitrust law, the future of the news industry, even the nature of the workplace.

In Aspen on Wednesday, Drummond was interviewed on stage by Walter Isaacson, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute and former editor of TIME magazine. After calling Drummond  “a lucky lawyer” for having connected with Google’s founders when they were just starting out in 1998,  Isaacson went on to ask some good, tough questions. Drummond flicked them away pretty effortlessly. Some highlights from the lucky lawyer:

CHINA: Google is doing the right thing by refusing to provide a censored service within China while directing Chinese users to an uncensored version based in Hong Kong. “You can say the moral thing to do is to be engaged or you can boycott. Trying the middle way is a lot harder — to try to do some good locally while not compromising the principles.”
PROFITS VS. PUBLIC INTEREST: “More information is always better. Serving the user really aggressively is what we want to do. We’ve never really seen that big a conflict” between making money and serving the customer.
PRIVACY: “If you’re willing to let a company like Google know more about you, where you’ve been and what you’ve done, we can deliver much better services [such as really targeted advertising]. That has to be done in a way where the user knows what’s going on and has control over it”
ANONYMITY ON THE WEB: It’s not either, or. There are people who are very comfortable with revealing their identities. Anonymity can be good too – people should be able to use Google services anonymously.
THE MOBILE FUTURE: We’re absolutely moving from a PC world to a mobile world. The mobile experience will improve through continued innovation and will be even better than the Web experience because it will be more social and more easily targeted to the individual user.
QUALITY JOURNALISM, ANYONE?: “Ad-based free journalism online hasn’t been enough to sustain the kinds of newsrooms, remote offices and bureaus that quality journalism needs. We want to be part of the solution – to the extent it involves paid content we want to be a distribution arm for that too.” Information doesn’t need to be free. But it should be accessible.

from The Great Debate UK:

Are publication bans outdated in the Internet era?

IMG01299-20100115-2004The debate over freedom of expression and the impact of social networking on democratic rights in the courts is in focus in Canada after a Facebook group became the centre of controversy when it may have violated a publication ban.

The group, which has more than 7,000 members, was set up to commemorate the murder of a 2-year-old boy in Oshawa, Ontario.

The breach of a publication ban could lead to a mistrial, a fine and even jail time. Violating a ban could taint the opinions of witnesses or jurors, and the news media must wait to report information protected under a publication ban until after the trial is over.

from FaithWorld:

Has U.S. abortion language created climate of violence?

The murder of Kansas abortion doctor George Tiller has been condemned by prominent groups and activists on both sides of this divisive and emotive issue.


But the language used by some opponents of abortion rights who reviled Tiller for his work providing late-term abortions remained very strong.

Take this statement by Dr. James Dobson, founder of the conservative evangelical group Focus on the Family.

from FaithWorld:

GUESTVIEW: Canada and the niqab: How to go public in the public square

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors' alone. Sarah Sayeed is Program Associate and Matthew Weiner is Program Director at the Interfaith Center of New York.

By Sarah Sayeed and Matthew Weiner

A Canadian judge recently ruled that a Toronto Muslim woman must take off her face veil while giving testimony in a sexual assault trial. This tension between public space and private religion comes up repeatedly in western urban centers where Muslim women increasingly occupy the pubic square.  This time it happened in Toronto, but the issue arises regularly in western countries in the schools, workplaces and courtrooms that Muslims increasingly share with the majority population. At stake is whether a Muslim woman's choice to dress in accordance with her religious beliefs infringes upon "our way of life." (Photo: Sultaana Freeman testifies in court for right to wear a niqab on her Florida driver's license, 27 May 2003/pool)

While all can agree that identity, tolerance and religious freedom are important, advocates for the face veil emphasize the upholding of freedom while opponents focus on the face veil, or niqab, as a challenge to collective identity.  Such tension between public expression of religion and collective identity is not new.  It has even gone on for centuries in Muslim countries, where religious minorities feel the tension between acceptance and their need to adapt, in varying degrees, to a Muslim majority worldview.  There is also a debate within Muslim communities about whether wearing the niqab is a religious requirement.