Farhan Akhtar lends his voice to an online-safety initiative

Renowned actor, writer, and filmmaker Farhan Akhtar launched a new version of SnehAI—SnehAI 3.0, an AI-powered chatbot developed by the Population Foundation of India that uses animation films, short stories and quizzes to help young people safely navigate the internet. SnehAI is currently hosted on Facebook Messenger. “Young people are especially vulnerable to online abuse, which can leave them traumatized for life,” Akhtar said. “We need innovative digital solutions that help children and adolescents safely navigate the ever-expanding digital world … SnehAI, conceived by the Population Foundation of India, creates awareness around online risks, and provides tips to stay safe while browsing the internet.”

Since the launch of the chatbot’s first version in 2019, it has been a platform for young people to seek credible information around sex, sexuality, and reproductive health. SnehAI 3.0 will now focus on content in line with the need of the hour — how young people can safely navigate the internet — to prevent online child sexual exploitation and abuse.

“The internet is often hailed for its potential for education and democratisation of knowledge, but unfortunately, it has also become a site of abuse and exploitation that feeds and complements offline crime,” Poonam Muttreja, the Executive Director of Population Foundation of India said. “Young people are especially vulnerable and as a society, we have done very little to understand these problems, or to build a safer internet for them. SnehAI is our attempt to correct that.”

While it focuses on young people, the material is equally relevant for adults. The chatbot also provides helpline numbers for those in need of help. “At MARD, which stands for Men Against Rape and Discrimination, we have had a longstanding association with Population Foundation of India to promote women’s empowerment,” Akhtar said.

Population Foundation of India developed the chatbot with the support of End Violence Against Children and UNICEF. “We seek to provide a secure, personalised, and non-judgmental space for every adolescent and young person in the country to share their concerns and learn about issues related to their health and wellbeing,” Muttreja said.

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