Internet rights groups from around the world are urging Facebook to clean up its advocacy in India around Free Basics, the company’s program to offer limited internet access for free. Critics have branded its strategy as “unfounded and divisive” and at odds with net neutrality.
More than 30 rights groups have come together and penned an open letter to Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg, saying his claims about the opposition to Free Basics coming from a minority are “disingenuous.”
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Free Basics hasn’t had an easy time since it was revealed. The aim is for Facebook to partner with mobile carriers and give users in unconnected parts of the world free access to websites like Wikipedia, AccuWeather, Facebook and Bing search.
The process of prioritizing these websites is known as zero-rating and is a bone of contention in the fight for net neutrality because of its exemption of certain traffic from data caps. Free Basics was suspended by regulators in India last month, asking telecommunications companies to give over information on how they were handling the program.
That’s when Facebook start publishing full-page adverts in newspapers, asking people to sign a petition against the Indian authorities suspension. Zuckerberg also published an article in the Times of India urging people to help reverse the ban, suggesting the opposition to zero-rating was both unnecessary and hindering the country.
The open letter calls Facebook out on this, saying:
“It is concerning that Facebook — which says it supports Net Neutrality — would attack those who have sought to enshrine this fundamental principle in law. Such a move is an insult to millions in the fast-growing global community that cares about safeguarding the open internet.”
Facebook has yet to respond to the letter but its advocacy appears to be playing right into the hands of internet service providers, implying there is nothing to be concerned about.
➤ Open letter to Mark Zuckerberg on Net Neutrality advocacy in India [Access Now via Wired]