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 a newly 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 more than 10 vernacular Indian languages, enabling its central teams to benefit from the local nuance and inputs.
This will help Google India continue its campaign against existing and emerging abuse areas, such as misinformation, fraud, threats to child safety, violent extremism, phishing attacks, and malware, the company said.
This will also further strengthen Google's global trust and safety operations of over 20,000 people spread across the world 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 in a virtual briefing.
He added that Google treats user data with the 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 should 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 have different understanding of what to expect from the internet and the services that are provided online.
"It is critical that we keep stepping up our 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," he said.
Gupta emphasised that for building a foundation of trust for internet, "we cannot leave the doors open for the bad actors" and expect law enforcement to punish them.
"We must do our 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 a highly visual, interactive experience called 'Interland', where children can learn the fundamentals of online safety and participate in a series of fun and challenging games.
Through its interactivity, children will learn how to safeguard valuable information, one-up cyber bullies, and spot what's real and what's fake.
This gamified curriculum will also find place in popular Indian comic book publisher, Amar Chitra Katha's popular series across eight Indian languages.
Speaking at the event, Vint Cerf, vice-president and chief internet evangelist at Google, 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 the 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.
In addition to helping users build better digital skills, there is a need to develop tools to aid them in their quest for safety, so that companies, individuals, researchers, and governments can harness the internet for good, whilst protecting themselves from harm.
Kristie Canegallo, vice-president (trust and safety) at Google, said the company is conscious that there is a need for a comprehensive approach that combines its teams with technology, user education, clear and robust policies, and collaborating with key stakeholders.
"Given the exciting diversity of the Indian internet ecosystem, we are looking forward to working with partners to share the capabilities we have developed over the years and learn from others as well," she added.
The latest initiatives are supported by a series of new global policies announced by Google that include product changes to Google accounts for people under 18 across YouTube, search, location history, Play and Google Workspace for Education.