By Doug Cunningham, Contributor
An auditorium full of students and staff sat anxiously in Mammel Hall on Wednesday night waiting for a speech from Scott Carpenter, director of Google Ideas. Carpenter spoke on how the web connects global communities despite censorship.
“The Internet as we know it in North America is an amazingly large entity,” Carpenter said. “Many of us remember it in its infancy. Those who do will remember the infamous dial-up tone. The strange noises stir up bitter memories.”
However, Carpenter asked the question: where is the rest of the world when it comes to the Internet? Carpenter noted for many countries, it has become a tool to share as well as a tool to censor. This is where Google Ideas comes in. Carpenter and his team have the task of “defending against digital threats in a connected world.”
“We think by 2024, the next five billion could be online,” Carpenter said.
Much of the world is currently utilizing the Internet and, according to Carpenter, there are roughly two billion people on the web.
“As a country, we saw the Internet grow slowly over the years,” Carpenter said. “Others have leaped immediately to smartphones.”
Carpenter also spoke about certain goals Google has called “moon shots.” Getting the rest of the world online by 2024 was a big one.
“We want to make online repressive censorship irrelevant,” Carpenter said.
Governments in foreign countries and people all around the world are using methods of censorship to block the transmission of information.
“We don’t think you should be able to sell silence,” Carpenter said.
One method of bringing a site offline is by overloading a website with unwanted traffic, which causes a shutdown. This is called a Distributed Denial of Service, DDoS for short. Some attacks can come from benign sources, but many are responsible for more malicious acts such as silencing political figures during elections or news outlets during protests. With roughly 20,000 attacks per day these are responsible for one-third of internet downtime.
“I’ve never understood what a DDoS attack was before tonight,” said Julian Cedar, UNO student. “I guess I’m more thankful that the Internet here can’t be censored so easily.”
Google Ideas is using DDoS as motivation for their next idea called Project Shield. Project Shield is focused on protecting Internet expression around the world.
“We have several caches of the entire Internet stored on servers at Google,” Carpenter said.
The massive size of Google means it can take a potential DDoS attack and mitigate it by spreading out the traffic amongst their servers preventing the shutdown.
The Internet can be used in ways that are beneficial or it can be used to manipulate.
“Google as a company is committed to net neutrality,” Carpenter said.
Google has the resources to fix this problem. In early quarter two, Google will be launching a peer-to-peer gateway for Internet freedom. uProxy is a tool that allows someone from a different country to connect to the Internet through a secure connection in the US. It gives someone who had a compromised connection a chance to be safe and secure.
“This tool could connect people around the world on a massive scale,” said Alicia Adams, UNO Student.
Google seems to be thinking along the same lines.
“We just think the internet today becomes such an important resource for all of us,” Carpenter said.