Google on Wednesday launched its global 'Be Internet Awesome' programme for children in India in partnership with Indian comic book publisher Amar Chitra Katha to interweave critical internet safety lessons across eight Indian languages.
The tech giant has also launched an enhanced Google Safety Centre in eight Indic languages as part of its efforts to step up safety of users on the internet.
Google has significantly increased its resources dedicated to India's Trust Safety teams, including product policy analysts, security specialists, and user trust experts that support over 10 vernacular Indian languages, enabling its central teams to benefit from the local nuance and inputs.
This will help Google India continue its work around misinformation, fraud, threats to child safety, violent extremism, phishing attacks, and malware. It will also further strengthen Google's global trust and safety operations of over 20,000 people, who are dedicated to identifying, fighting and preventing online harm.
"Our north star is to make the internet helpful for a billion Indians...every single day, more people are placing their trust in the internet and adopting new services and all of us in the technology industry, have a responsibility to honour their trust," Google India country manager and vice-president Sanjay Gupta said at the 'Google for India' virtual event.
He added that Google treats user data with utmost responsibility and gives users complete control over their data.
"As technology becomes more accessible, the barriers are lowered for bad actors as well and hence, the work to enhance trust, must go hand in hand.
"We need to ensure that our children continue to learn and explore the world safely with the internet.
"Women must have equal access to the internet opportunity without fearing for their safety and people across the country should feel assured that they and their money is safe when they're online," Gupta said.
Gupta noted that internet users in India are at different levels of digital maturity, and that it is “critical” to step up efforts to build people's confidence, so they can “fully trust the services they use online and they always know what to expect from them — whether they are familiar with the internet, or accessing it for the first time".
Gupta emphasised that for building a foundation of trust for internet, "we cannot leave the doors open for the bad actors" and industry must do its part, especially as new threats arise.
"Cutting-edge innovations can make internet safer, just as they made it (internet) more open, more inclusive, and more dynamic. India will shape the future of a safer internet for everyone.
"Building a safer internet for everyone is not one more thing to do, it is the thing to do," he added.
The launch of the newly expanded safety centre in Hindi, Marathi, Malayalam, Kannada and Telugu, and in Bengali, Tamil, and Gujarati by the year-end, will serve as a single destination that will cover important topics like data security, privacy controls, and online protections.
The 'Be Internet Awesome' campaign includes an interactive experience called 'Interland', where children can participate in a series of fun and challenging games and learn how to safeguard valuable information, one-up cyber bullies, and spot what's real and what's fake when online.
This gamified curriculum will also find place in Amar Chitra Katha's popular series across eight Indian languages.
Speaking at the event, Vint Cerf, Google's vice-president and chief internet evangelist, said the internet one experiences today has exceeded all his initial estimations.
Cerf, considered as the "Father of the Internet", noted that with lower barriers to internet access, users across the world have benefited, but bad actors have also gained entry.
"With the increasing user adoption and contribution of digital connectivity in India's economy, we cannot take the internet for granted.
"Since the pandemic broke, there is a heightened need to strengthen safety and security, reliability and privacy, and the overall resilience of the internet and its applications," he added.
Kristie Canegallo, vice-president (trust and safety) at Google, said the company is conscious of the need for a comprehensive approach that combines its teams with technology, user education, clear and robust policies, and collaborating with key stakeholders.
Google's latest initiatives are supported by a series of new global policies that it recently introduced, including product changes to Google accounts for people under 18 across YouTube, search, location history, Play and Google Workspace for Education.
Canegallo said Gmail blocks over 100 million phishing attempts every day and 15 billion spam messages every day, while Google Play Protect scans 100 billion apps every day.
The company blocked or removed about 3.1 billion ads in 2020 for violating its policies.
In India, GPay protects over one lakh users with safety alerts daily.
"We invested over $1 billion annually in content moderation systems and processes and expect this will certainly continue," she added.
Google vice-president (Android and Google Play) Sameer Samat said it is working with Jio to "bring a fully-fledged device (JioPhone Next) built with optimisations, Android operating system and Google Play, aimed at serving the needs of many who have never used a smartphone before".
David Kleidermacher, its vice-president engineering (Android security and privacy), said Google has stepped up efforts to deliver a privacy-first experience on its Android operating system.
"We are also significantly expanding our Google Play support teams in India," he said.
Kleidermacher cited the recent clarifications issued by Google around the policies on personal loan apps, including new requirements that are aimed at helping safeguard users while enabling legitimate developers to operate and flourish.
Photograph: Charles Platiau/Reuters