“I believe there’s a real chance that we can eliminate censorship and the possibility of censorship in a decade,” Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said recently at Johns Hopkins University. “The solution to government surveillance is to encrypt everything.”
Currently, citizens of oppressive regimes have a few ways of sneaking around government Internet blocks, including encrypted virtual private networks, which re-routes traffic through servers outside of the host country.
“It’s always a cat-and-mouse game,” said Schmidt. Last spring, for instance, the freedom-loving government of Iran cracked down on the use of VPNs. Those who choose to abide by the law are subject to the censorship whims of governments which sporadically block media social media sites that permit dissenting or culturally sensitive material.
Wikipedia has a running tally of all the governments that block the Justin Bieber and cat circus that is YouTube.
“In that race, I think the censors will lose and I think the people will be empowered,” said Schmidt.
No word on how exactly it will end, though. We can imagine a system where traffic is so encrypted that neither the location, content, or destination is visible to government censors. Or, perhaps the the architecture of the net will change so that only governments can meaningfully identify traffic they don’t like.
Ever the optimist, Schmidt thinks that democratic ideals will pervade in China, even with censors.
“You cannot stop it if it’s a good idea broadly held,” he said. “That’s how China will change.”