Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s Internet.org initiative has come under fire for its anti-net neutrality stance.
In a Saturday speech at the United Nations, the Facebook head said that his website would team up with the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees to bring web access to refugee camps around the world. Would we really blame people who saw Internet.org in the source code and vented their frustration on social media sites? The reality is that most companies that are building Internet services aren’t building for a 1.5 billion people. Such a system would solve all of the pro-access goals that Facebook espouses, with a significantly less distorting effect on the end-user’s experience of the Internet than the Free Basics service that exists now.
The financial and symbolic muscle that Zuckerberg wants to flex via Internet.org will create a parallel universe of tightly controlled digital content, with only 50 or more affiliates as of now.
The key question now is whether activists around the world who’ve fought Internet.org (and similar services) will recognize that, as of last week, it’s time for them to declare victory and embrace what Facebook and allied companies are trying to do.
The global program claims to be working towards getting people in developing countries like India on to the Internet for free through tie-ups with telcom operators.
On Facebook’s campus on Sunday, two of the world’s most powerful men used the high-tech company’s pulpit to promote a mutually beneficial platform: the growing power and influence of social media and the future of the digital economy in India.
Mr. Modi, in the name of “Digital India” intends to plant the seeds of a concept which would make internet accessibility much more controlled than ever before, and the Digital India “revolution” comes under several masks.
If only a cluster of job, money-oriented websites are available to nearly two-third of the population as a part of Internet.org, it becomes extremely easy to control and channel the flow of information. A rumour soon took hold that doing this automatically caused a person to cast a vote in favour of Facebook’s controversial initiative internet.org, recently renamed Free Basics.
Facebook asked the travel website ClearTrip.com to join Internet.org because its online train-booking service was likely to attract rural Indians, said the company’s founder, Hrush Bhatt. It was a hoax, like the notion that an imminent change in Facebook’s revenue model is about to turn all your notifications public unless you paste a certain message as your status update. After launching the first version of Facebook for a few thousand users, we would discuss how this should be built for the world. The most recent case being the draft policy aimed at prescribing modes and methods of encryption in India that evoked strong responses and was finally withdrawn by the government on 22 September. Facebook and the current Indian government are made for each other, when seen through the lens of governance as surveillance and information control. We should work together to make that happen now.
Before the meeting, both Mark Zuckerberg and PM Modi shared their thoughts via Facebook posts, and the wording depicts that something is brewing up. Indians have a fundamental duty to ensure net neutrality and keep the internet free. Despite Modi’s penchant for hugs, this is not the beast we should embrace.