Thursday, August 5, 2021

Sundar Pichai critical of changes in Internet rules

New Delhi: The “free and open internet is under attack in several countries,” said Sundar Pichai in an interview to BBC. “Many countries are trying to restrict the flow of information, and that the idea of a free and open internet was taken for granted. I think free and open internet is a tremendous force for good and we take it for granted a bit,” commented Pichai.

“In each country now there is a debate what speech is Ok and what should be allowed..in some ways I think we pull back from the bigger picture. Many countries around the world are restricting the flow of information and drawing much more rigid boundaries,” he commented. He urged the countries with strong democratic traditions to stand up against the fragmentation of internet.

In the background of Indian laws newly introduced by government with which social media platforms, news publishers, OTT platforms, websites and search engines are grappling and the government insisting that the new laws would empower and protect the users. One of the rules says the media platforms have to delete any offensive content within 36 hours and the authority to describe any content offense is vested with the government. The rules violate users’ right to privacy and freedom of expression guaranteed by the fundamental rights ensured by the Constitution. WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, is fighting the laws in the Indian courts. WhatsApp has over 50 crore Indian users. News broadcasters in India also have mounted pressure on the government. The organization contends that the new power would curtail freedom of expression and speech.

Ravi Shakar Prasad, who was dropped in the recent reshuffle, was in a thick of a fight with Twitter when the changes in the Cabinet took place. He bluntly told the Twitter to follow the law of the land and the new IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw had reiterated this stand as soon as he took over the reins.  United Nations special rapporteurs also expressed concern that the new rules do not conform with the international human rights norms and would curb freedom of speech.

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