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VMblog Expert Interview: True internet freedom - Talking borderless internet with Avi Raz Cohen


Being citizens of a borderless internet - is this at all possible? What does it mean in practice? What role do we play in it? Avi Raz Cohen, Hola's General Manager, breaks down the state of the internet today and his company's mission and actions towards ensuring internet freedom.

VMblog:  So, what exactly is Hola?

Avi Raz Cohen:  Hola is a web content gateway. We might all think of the internet as a borderless resource of information, but in reality, for various reasons, it's still divided by "borders". At Hola, we make it our business to provide all internet users free movement throughout the internet - no walls, no checkpoints. This provides everyone the freedom to access any web content they need, reaching a genuine and true-to-reality view, no matter where they are based in the world. We enable an internet view they can trust to be reliable and not tainted by market competition, censorship, or other factors.

I've seen Hola hold firm to this goal since I first joined the team in 2014 as a product manager. As I evolved throughout my career to today stand at its helm, I've strongly believed in and supported Hola's mission. 

VMblog:  How does Hola achieve a borderless internet? 

Cohen:  Hola offers a suite of solutions that allow people to move through the internet without friction . That may have started as a simple VPN in 2014, but we have evolved our tools right alongside the internet. We facilitate this advancement through an extensive peer-to-peer network that includes millions of users around the world.

But beyond our product, we also have a mission at Hola, and our mission is to create that borderless internet I mentioned earlier. We are committed to providing our users with a gateway to the World Wide Web, not just their country's web. Whether our users sign in from the United States or Russia, we firmly believe they should have access to the same online content and information. This is especially important to users in those countries whose authorities want to manipulate the information available to their citizens.

VMblog:  What's censorship got to do with any of this?

Cohen:  Free internet access is a human right - but, unfortunately, that right is under attack. Freedom House's latest report found that internet freedom has been on the decline for the past decade.

But that freedom is vital. And access to quality information should not depend on someone's mailing address. A disconnected internet cultivates misinformation; it opens the door for autocrats to control and manipulate the truth.

We see this as a battle between these authorities and the internet's borderless nation, of which each of us holds citizenship. When censorship threatens some of us, it harms all of us. It is our responsibility as members of this global community to preserve free access to the internet and all of its content.

VMblog:  That covers a lot, but what exactly is tech's responsibility in all of this?

Cohen:  We're all members of this digital world, right? And beyond that, tech experts are members of the digital world with a unique duty and capacity to ensure its openness. It's not only our duty to provide quality products - we also need to ensure that those products advance the well-being of our digital ecosystems. So, Hola might not be Freedom House or a member of the UN, but we do ensure that everyone can freely access a borderless internet.

VMblog:  And what's next for Hola?

Cohen:  We're always searching for ways to elevate our offerings and to make sure our loyal Hola users can get the exact online experience they want. We're at 99.9% online access now - but we're looking for that next step. How can we really make that access work for people and provide them with new ways to engage with information, content, and commerce?

In the coming weeks, we will be launching a first-of-a-kind product that I'm sure will make a true difference in the way people shop online and secure the best possible price. So, watch this space!


Published Thursday, July 28, 2022 7:30 AM by David Marshall
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