Mark Zuckerberg defends Internet.org’s Free Basics in India

Asking “who could possibly be against this,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg again defended Internet.org’s Free Basics in India in an op-ed published in the Times of India today. His renewed defense comes the week after Indian regulators reportedly asked Facebook’s telecom partner to put Free Basics on hold as the government considers whether it violates net neutrality, and as the government asks the public for input on the issue.

Internet.org, the Facebook effort to connect the far corners of the world to the Internet, offers Free Basics, a service that provides mobile users access to certain websites on their phones. Users of Free Basics get access to Facebook and other partner sites, but not to the whole Internet. And that’s the problem. Critics say the initiative violates the principles of net neutrality. They say Free Basics is a walled garden for poor people that compounds inequality.

Zuckerberg disagrees, pointing to Internet access as a step away from inequality. He says limited Internet access is better than no access at all. In the op-ed, he compared the services Free Basics provides to those offered by libraries that “don’t contain every book, but they still provide a world of good.

“If people lose access to free basic services they will simply lose access to the opportunities offered by the Internet today,” Zuckerberg wrote. He also said: “This isn’t about Facebook’s commercial interests – there aren’t even any ads in the version of Facebook in Free Basics.”

Internet.org, a 2-year-old effort, has faced criticism from the start. In September the initiative changed the name of the service from Internet.org to Free Basics in response to accusations that it was misrepresenting itself as a whole Internet service, that it’s being used to confuse new Internet users into thinking Facebook is the Internet. It has seen partners leave in the wake of all the criticism. And Zuckerberg has had to defend it again and again.

In this latest defense of the initiative, Zuckerberg said: “What reason is there for denying people free access to vital services for communication, education, healthcare, employment, farming and women’s rights?”

 

Photo of Mark Zuckerberg from Associated Press archives

 

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  • Sammyp245

    If you are interested in advancing basic social concerns you would provide unfettered nrestricted services. Access to those services Mr Zuckerberg has arbitrarilly determined to be in the public”good”, contrary to his assertion, has everything to do with his commercial interests

  • joel_in_oakland

    “…there aren’t even any ads in the version of Facebook in Free Basics.”
    Yet.
    I’m sure he said that under his breath.

  • drensber

    This should really make people skeptical of how “charitable” his LLC is going to be.

  • Sammyp245

    “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche”

 
 
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