Finding an equitable way to help people around the world reap the benefits of Internet connectivity will likely require a more nuanced approach than American tech companies are used to taking in the United States.
Could Facebook really not find any alternatives for the words “Internet.org” from the ever-expanding English language?
Facebook on Tuesday defended itself on the “Internet.org” profile picture imbroglio and said that the issue on the site was a mistake by an engineer which had nothing to do with Internet.org’s publicity plans in the country.
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at company headquarters in Menlo Park, San Francisco it raged a widespread debate that if India PM is lending support to what is latter’s controversial internet service Internet.org. The amusing thing for us, is that we have this mentality that we are still very small compared to the impact we hope to have on the world in terms of helping people connect. Partnered with various wireless carriers and organizations, Facebook launched Internet.org to offer free access to a collection of Internet services (including Facebook) in developing countries. The catch is that the WiFi access, which will reach more than 10 million potential users, will be “free to start”. Those two things have gotten conflated together, where a lot of people think that Internet.org is this one effort to connect people.
After publishing the article, I received quite a few flak for criticising Zuckerberg and for doubting the seemingly noble intentions behind the clamour of support for Digital India. However, concerns have been raised in a few quarters about this program being against the spirit of Net Neutrality – the ability to access a website or internet service of choice.
Bhatt and others say that if Facebook wanted to expand Internet access for Indians, there were other ways of doing it without violating net neutrality. “Facebook, by ensuring that it is a gatekeeper of content, is ensuring that the users of Internet.org are a second tier of Internet citizens”, said Rafael Laguna, chief executive of collaboration software provider Open-Xchange in an email to VentureBeat. The information superhighways will be basically digital graveyards with no access beyond what’s carefully sanctioned. So Google, Facebook, and Twitter have added support for more Indian languages and are pushing developers and users to create local-language content. India’s mobile connections can run at a hundredth of the speed that Americans expect, so Google is compressing web pages on its servers to use 80% less data and load four times as quickly.
Earlier, reports suggested that support for initiative counted as a vote for Facebook’s… Facebook still hasn’t come clear on its involvement with US National Security Agency’s notorious Prism programme, under which extensive and absolutely illegal surveillance of world leaders and diplomats was carried out. 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. 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.
Indian government (current and past) has attempted several times to make the internet a confined space – one which cuts privacy dead. Despite Modi’s penchant for hugs, this is not the beast we should embrace.