Google At Odds With President Obama

Posted: Apr 18, 2012 10:28 AM
Google At Odds With President Obama

The President and Google co-Founder Sergey Brin are at odds. While Brin argues that unnecessary regulations inhibit entrepreneurship and innovation, Obama takes the position that government - and regulatory schemes - makes entrepreneurship and innovation possible.

Brin recently explained to The Guardian how government interference, and the dominance of Apple and Facebook make it extremely difficult to innovate in today's Internet environment: (emphasis mine)

The threat to the freedom of the internet comes, he claims, from a combination of governments increasingly trying to control access and communication by their citizens, the entertainment industry's attempts to crack down on piracy, and the rise of "restrictive" walled gardens such as Facebook and Apple, which tightly control what software can be released on their platforms.

Brin said he and co-founder Larry Page would not have been able to create Google if the internet was dominated by Facebook. "You have to play by their rules, which are really restrictive," he said. "The kind of environment that we developed Google in, the reason that we were able to develop a search engine, is the web was so open. Once you get too many rules, that will stifle innovation."

A few days earlier, President Obama, lambasting the Ryan Plan, took credit for allowing companies like Facebook and Google to exist: (emphasis mine)

“I believe in investing in basic research and science because I understand that all these extraordinary companies that are these enormous wealth-generators -- many of them would have never been there; Google, Facebook would not exist, had it not been for investments that we made as a country in basic science and research,” Obama said. “I understand that makes us all better off.”

Facebook and Apple have the right to exist, and no one is forcing Brin, or any citizen, to use their products or services. However, Obama is clearly saying that government involvement has created the opportunities for companies to exist. Obama would also lead one to believe that successful companies owe something to the government which "allows" them to exist, but in fact, government's main role in Facebook and Google was to stay out of the way.

In 2008, then-CEO Eric Schmidt was a supporter of Obama. He claimed that his campaigning for Obama was personal, and that "Google was officially neutral" on the presidential race. Brin is not neutral. And chief among his complaints, along with his rivals' internet dominance, is interference from governments. In discussing China, he was amazed at how much power they have:

He said five years ago he did not believe China or any country could effectively restrict the internet for long, but now says he has been proven wrong. "I thought there was no way to put the genie back in the bottle, but now it seems in certain areas the genie has been put back in the bottle," he said.

But the genie is out of the bottle. 2012 is a much different year in 2008. The now-CEO of Google is advocating for less government intervention to get increased innovation. Obama is clearing saying (as he has said before) that government is responsible for allowing entrepreneurs to exist and innovate, and, in fact, are owed something by those companies.

Two very different visions for the future.