Despite the search engine’s aggressive growth and “manifest destiny”-type approach to its expansion, “Think of us a teenager,” Google Chairman Eric Schmidt replied, to an interesting question from audience member Jeremiah Owyang here at Le Web, “If Google were a country which country would it be?”
“We’re not a country,”Schmidt said, bringing up the fact that Google did not have nuclear weapons, nor a police force and that it was subject to the laws of most actual countries, a fact made most obvious in Google’s dealings with China.
Despite not being a country, Google does have values, Schmidt emphasized, revolving around freedom of speech and transparency. When the Chinese government wanted to censor Google search results a couple years ago, Google management leaned on those values and eventually took its Chinese outpost to Hong Kong.
“If we were to take our values to a country,” Schmidt said, “We’d value personal privacy and personal expression, but a lot of public debate and discussion.”
Earlier in the discussion Schmidt gave this advice to government leaders, “Whatever you do, don’t turn off the Internet. “The role of government is to make sure that citizens have access to fixed and wireless broadband,” he went on, “If you have fixed and wireless broadband the citizens will take care of the rest.”
Sidenote: In response to a question about about why the search engine hadn’t acquired any French companies onstage at Le Web, Schmidt joked Google was now buying around one company a day. Running backstage to clarify, Schmidt told me on the record that it was more like one a week. “But why do you never announce them?” I asked him. “We don’t have to,” he said.
Imagine a government leader saying something like that.