TODAY   |  April 22, 2013

Google chairman: Digital world helped Boston manhunt

Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, Google’s director of ideas, talk about their book, “The New Digital Age,” and discuss how the digital world contributed to the apprehension of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> moment of the boston marathon bombings, a digital manhunt was under way for the terrorists. surveillance videos and photos taken by average citizens played a huge role in the case. a water shed moment for the internet and social media , one that google executive chairman eric schmidt and google ideas director jared cohen predicted. their new book is called "the new digital age." nice to see you. it's all about how the digital world is changing our lives, our safety, our businesses, but let's look at it in the context of what we've all just lived through over the last week. first, the bombings themselves and then the investigation. what was the digital impact?

>> well, this was a terrible tragedy by any measure, and yet the digital world helped a lot. after the police figured out roughly who they were, they released videotapes and a million people looked for these people. and i'm sure that really spooked them.

>> so these members of the digital community became quasi- law enforcement agents.

>> if you're locked down in boston, what else are you going to do? you're going to look.

>> but it's interesting, you immediately highlight the positive. jared , let me bring you in here, because some people might say the digital world may also have been where these brothers radicalized their views, where they may -- we don't know -- may have learned how to build some of the devices that they eventually exploded at the boston marathon . there have been cases in the past where terrorists have used cell phones , a digital device, to actually debt face devices, although we don't know that here.

>> what we see is the number of people who want to see less violence in the world significantly outnumbers that of the perpetrators. we all have the ability to collectively press rewind. it makes it harder for anybody to get away with it in the future.

>> there is no question that that idea, that concept of these putting these ideas out there and all these people watching events, not only on television, but on their computers and smart phones , they did help. there's a downside to that as well, because there were some people identified in photographs who turned out to have nothing to do with the crime, and by pushing send, those people were placed out there unfairly instantly.

>> by the way, this happened in the atlanta bombings. richard jewel , who was ultimately exonerated, and yet his name existed on history forever. there is a rush to judgment online, but overall, we get to the right answer pretty quickly. be careful. the first thing you hear may not be correct, but over time , the online world gets it right.

>> you mentioned misidentification is not new to the digital world . but boy, the speed of the digital world does change it dramatically. by the way, another digital element to this, when these brothers carjacked that car on thursday night, they let the driver of the car go. that driver left a cell phone in the car, and --

>> so one of the things we talk about in the book is it's very difficult for terrorists in the future to not use technology. it's just the world we're moving into. as they opt into technology, the room for error becomes much greater. when you're frantic and on the run, you can't possibly follow a checklist every second.

>> yeah, look in the car and see if there's a cell phone there because you know it's a tracking device .

>> digital fingerprints. both of these young men went online. in the case of the older brother, he had postings on youtube talking about the jihad and jihadists. is there a responsibility for people like google to be constantly checking those things and alerting law enforcement ?

>> well, the moment we hear anything that is sort of hate speech or anything inappropriate on youtube, we take it off. that's sort of the best we can do because there's so much coming out. the fact of the matter is people are going to use all of this stuff to post their ideas and you will see it. and maybe you get a better sense that these people are evil by looking at what they're posting.

>> in the 15 seconds i have left, jared , as we move to the future and in terms of crime, the digital world , is it a positive or a negative?

>> we're overwhelmingly optimistic. the room for error goes up whether you're a criminal or a terrorist. you have to leave a digital trail behind, and nobody can possibly be that careful and even terrorists make mistakes.

>> eric schmidt and jared cohen. thank you, guys. the book is called "the new digital age."