Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt warned that the Internet may become a more censored medium - like television.
Television stations in heavy-handed regimes are all government controlled and rigged. The ones in the most oppressive regimes, like North Korea, are purely propaganda tools masquerading as real programs.
Closed governments control television because they're the primary means through which people get their news and ideas. If they control this, they heavily influence the thoughts of their population.
However, with the proliferation of Internet access, online content, recording devices (e.g. smartphones), and communication channels (e.g. Facebook), the Internet is taking over the role of television.
As the technology becomes more pervasive and as the citizenry becomes completely wired and the content gets localized to the language of the country, it becomes an issue like television, explained Schmidt at a Google-organized conference in Ireland on Monday.
Dictators have already seen the power of the Internet. The Tunisia and Egyptian revolts are largely organized through social media platforms. In fact, after the revolutions succeeded, protestors dotted the streets with 'Thank You Facebook' graffiti.
In Saudi Arabia, Internet-led revolt took the form of women using Twitter and Facebook to organize protests to defy their driving ban.
The tussle between repressive regimes and Internet platforms have also began. Google has left China over censorship issues. Yahoo, meanwhile, has been blasted for handing over the personal information of political dissidents to the Chinese government.
In 2010, BlackBerry was strong-armed by Saudi Arabia to set up its servers for Saudi phones inside the country.
Schmidt thinks the tension is only going to get worse. He even fears that employees of Western internet platforms like Google could be imprisoned and tortured.
There are countries where it is illegal to do things that Google encourages. In those countries, there is a real possibility of (employees) being put in prison for reasons which are not their fault, he said.