Google's vice president and general counsel told the ACM Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference yesterday that censorship is a "trade barrier" and a " vital economic and trade issue".
Kent Walker went on to say that open platforms, open source and transparency are key to ensuring the free flow of information.
"I believe that censorship of the internet is no less a threat than terrorism," he said.
Walker claimed that it was in the interests of transparency, which empowers citizens to challenge their governments, that Google posted statistics earlier this year showing the number and geographical distribution of government access and content removal requests it received during the course of the year.
The number of governments seeking to censor the internet has grown tenfold in the past decade, according to Walker. Much attention has been focused on China, but Iran has seen a "disturbing increase in surveillance".
"There is an alarming trend among democratic governments to restrict and control the internet through overly broad defamation and copyright laws," he explained.
The past year has seen content filtering proposed in Australia, and the conviction of several Google employees for violating privacy laws over the company's failure to remove a YouTube video of an autistic youth being assaulted in Italy.
If Google had to vet every piece of content prior to posting to conform to the laws of 200 countries "the web as we know it would cease to exist", Walker said, and "many of the social, cultural, and technological benefits it brings would disappear".
Similarly, although Australia's goal in implementing a filtering system is to protect children, which Walker said is "a goal everyone shares", the country's actions are "undermining the fundamentals of an open internet".
Openness is both a cause and a business benefit for Google, according to Walker. "The more open the architecture the more useful our search engine becomes," he said.
"If we restrict the distribution of open technologies out of fear that they may be used against us, we also lose one of the most important instruments for democratisation we have available."
The ACM Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference continues until Friday.
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