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Google warns against threat to free, open Internet

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Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google Inc. Ramin Talaie / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

The Chief Executive Officer of Google, Sundar Pichai, has warned about threats to free and open Internet in several countries through the restriction of the flow of information.

In an interview with BBC recently, Pichai said that “many countries are restricting the flow of information, and the model is often taken for granted.”

He also addressed controversies around tax, privacy, and data and argued “artificial intelligence is more profound than fire, electricity or the Internet.”

“In each country now, there is a debate as to what speech is okay and what should be allowed. In some ways, I think we pull back from the bigger picture (which is that) many countries around the world are restricting the flow of information and drawing much more rigid boundaries,” he said.

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According to EconomicTimes.com, Pichai also urged “countries with strong democratic traditions and values” to stand up against the potential fragmenting of the Internet.”

While reacting to the news that Nigerian government planned to control media and had allocated N4.8 billion to monitor WhatsApp, phone calls, the Nigeria Coordinator, Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), Olusola Teniola, related the situation to what the Google boss said.

“The situation that Nigeria finds itself in reflects the concern expressed by Google’ CEO about the threats that certain countries are trying to impose on the freedom of the Internet. Existing laws must govern the ability to monitor speech, content and user communication using technology.

“In Nigeria that already exists and backed by court orders. The monitoring tools sought by FG are ones already being used by other governments around the world. The fear is that if the tools are used without supporting laws then it will stifle innovation and slow down the growth in investments in the digital economy especially the adoption of digital platforms that promote freedom of speech and expression,” he stated.

Teniola said it is equally important to make aware that digital rights, privacy and protection put a lot of pressure on the legislators to encompass best practices across the globe to prevent abuse and discrimination when these tools are adopted.

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