Facebook’s founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg’s latest project is to provide Internet connection to the poor and marginalized people. Although this may seem like a chivalrous act by this social media titan, it cannot be denied that Facebook is benefitting from this ploy. Hence, Zuckerberg is facing accusations that he is secretly trying to take over the Internet.
Toll – free or sponsored data is what Facebook had been fostering on many virtual network operators (MVNO) and Internet service providers (ISP). It is also called zero – rating. In this practice, ISP’s and MVNO’s do not charge customers for data used by specific applications or Internet services in their network. This usually applies to limited or metered data plans.
Zero – rating is not an unusual practice. In Australia, customers are not charge for data usage on ABC, iView and Netflix. Many wireless carriers are now offering this program to low income and rural communities. They call it “Free Basics” wherein customers can have free access to certain apps offering services like news, health information and job sites as well as the Facebook app and WhatsApp. Facebook picks up the bill for these free services.
Even if it seemed like a charitable cause, Egypt and India had successfully banned Facebook’s Free Basics program.
The Washington post had recently exposed Facebook’s secret meetings with the White House and small wireless carriers. They had been talking about implementing the Free Basics program in the United States. The company had already learned to be more careful in introducing the program after the kickback from overseas.
Zuckerberg would indeed come out a sure winner with this program successfully implemented. However, it had stirred caution among human rights activists. They believe it violates Internet freedom and corrupts the idea of net neutrality as it gives the social network the opportunity to monopolize the world-wide web.
The human rights activists are terrified of this plot. They consider Free Basics as an act of colonialism. But Facebook remains strong in its determination to provide free Internet services to the poor. Marc Andreessen, a member of Facebook’s board of directors, tweeted that it is morally wrong to deny the poor free partial Internet connectivity.
Indian regulators still contest to this motion. Consumer advocates had argued that it deprived other companies and non – profit groups which are not included in the platform. This resulted to India banning the app in February.
The colonialism tweet had been quickly deleted but it had already ignited heated discussions over social media. The Facebook CEO had written a long letter of apology for this matter.
The approval of the Facebook Free Basics app still remains in question. There are a great number of people who oppose the move but it is still very likely that the app will get rolled out. When this happens, there will indeed be plenty of raging arguments on Internet freedom across the country.