The free and open internet is under attack in countries across the world, Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai said in an interview with the BBC on Monday.
Pichai urged “countries with strong democratic traditions and values” to stand up against the potential fragmenting of the internet.
During the interview, the Google chief said that many countries are restricting the flow of information and the model of the open internet is often taken for granted. “In each country now there is a debate what speech is OK and what should be allowed,” he added. “In some ways I think we pull back from the bigger picture [that] many countries around the world are restricting the flow of information and drawing much more rigid boundaries.
Pichai’s comments came as social media platforms and digital news outlets have approached courts against India’s sweeping new information technology rules. The guidelines, which became effective end-May, are aimed at regulating content on social media and making firms act more swiftly on legal requests to remove posts. It also requires social media platforms with over 50 lakh users to help in identifying the “originator” of messages upon the government’s request.
On June 30, Google published its first monthly transparency report in compliance with the rules. However, last month, the company argued before the Delhi High Court that the IT rules do not apply to its search engine. The case will be heard again on July 25.
In May, Pichai told reporters that the free and open internet was “foundational” when he was asked about the IT rules.
The High Courts of Delhi, Bombay, Madras and Kerala have been hearing petitions challenging the regulations. On July 16, the Supreme Court will hear the Centre’s petition to transfer pleas filed in High Courts to itself.