As Tech Giants Meet With Modi, India's Poor Search for Real Internet Access
While tech giants praised a high-profile meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in Menlo Park, California on Sunday, net neutrality advocates took the occasion to criticize Facebook’s controversial venture into internet access for developing countries.
Facebook recently rebranded its Internet.org initiative after receiving backlash from consumer advocates who said it violated net neutrality rules by only allowing users free access to a small number of curated websites, including Facebook.
Despite renaming the venture to Free Basics, criticism of the program—which has launched in 18 countries—remains strong.
Even with a shift away from its misleading philanthropic title, the program’s aims remain disingenuous. “Facebook has finally stopped trying to pretend that this is an effort at philanthropy by correctly calling it FreeBasics.com by Facebook and not internet.org which neither had the internet nor the org,” Mishi Choudhary, executive director of the India-based Software Freedom Law Center, said on Tuesday.
“In countries like India, [net neutrality] is more about cost of access than speed of access: all lanes are slow,” Choudhary said.
As The Hindu pointed out on Tuesday, not one question during Zuckerberg and Modi’s 45-minute Q&A broached the topic of net neutrality.
Critics have also noted that by routing online traffic through partner organizations, Facebook would be able to sweep up user data and give itself ownership over images and videos posted through the program.
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