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Google Executive Ross LaJeunesse Visiting Pittsburgh to Discuss the Digital Age

More than 2 billion people in the world have access to the Internet, but what does the future hold for the web? Will the Internet become more censored, or more open? How will the 5 billion individuals without access get connected to the web?

To try and answer these questions, The World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh will host “Freedom and Power in the Digital Age” with speaker Ross LaJeunesse, the Global Head of Free Expression and International Relations at Google. LaJeunesse will explore the future of the Internet, how it affects world politics and the ways we interact with each other online.

The presentation will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater.

LaJeunesse told 90.5 WESA’s Essential Pittsburgh that the Internet has completely changed the way we access information since his childhood growing up in a small town in Maine.

“My options and my understanding of the world was fairly limited. And now when we think about a school student today, any student with connectivity to the net, she has the ability to do some amazing things,” said LaJeunesse.

According to LaJeunesse, Google believes that the more information people have access to, the greater their ability to make the right choices and live better lives. However, as there are still more than 600 million Internet users who live in countries where the content of the Internet is filtered or censored.

“Our services have been blocked in about 32 different countries and YouTube is fully blocked today in China, Iran and Pakistan,” said LaJeunesse. “There are about 31 percent of the world’s current Internet users that currently live in countries where there is substantial or pervasive online filtering and censorship, so that’s very much a part of the challenge that we’re facing.”

LaJeunesse says that these efforts at censorship are futile. The population of users who want free and open content, are far greater than those who are working to block information out.

“In many ways what governments are trying to do is deal with this incredibly powerful tool, the Internet, in the same way they’ve dealt with old traditional media and they just can’t,” said LaJeunesse.