Facebook asks US and UK users to support Free Basics in India, says it was an accident

Facebook asks US and UK users to support Free Basics in India, says it was an accident
Credit: Facebook

Facebook has been lobbying hard in India to push Free Basics, its zero-rating service that grants users access to sites on its platform at no charge.

The social network has been trying to garner support from its users in the country, but now seems to be overplaying its hand: it ‘accidentally’ asked users outside India to back its initiative.

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A few days ago, Facebook pushed a notification to users in India asking them to send an automated email to the Telecom Regulatory Authority Of India (TRAI), the agency deciding the fate of Free Basics in the country.

Facebook sent users a notification asking them to support Free Basics in India with the push of a button
Credit: TNW
Facebook sent users a notification asking them to support Free Basics in India with the push of a button

Recently, users in the UK and the US began receiving the same request from Facebook.

It’s worrying to see Facebook attempting to politicize its user base; it’s worse that it appears to be trying to push its agenda with the help of people not directly concerned with the issue at hand.

For its part, Facebook says it was a mistake. A spokesperson told Recode:

Hundreds of millions of people in India use the Internet every day and understand the benefits it can bring. This campaign gives people the opportunity to support digital equality in India.

We accidentally turned on this notification for some people outside India this evening for a short period of time — it’s been on for English-speakers in India for several days now.

The debate surrounding Free Basics is that it serves up only some sites at no cost to users and doesn’t include all of the Web. Critics argue that that it isn’t in line with net neutrality principles, which state that all online content must be equally accessible.

Users in India are similarly campaigning against Free Basics and other zero-rating services in the hopes of ensuring the Web is free and open for all citizens. TRAI said yesterday that it’s received over 540,000 comments from the public, most of them related to Free Basics. Facebook’s little ‘accident’ might have helped the company gain an edge in the battle.

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