Manasa PV

What Facebook’s Campaign for Internet.org is Not Telling You

I’d like to address a misleading petition being carried by change.org, curiously, perhaps tactically, invoking the hashtags ‘connectindia’ and ‘connecttheworld’, but estranging the campaign header from the infamous ‘Internet.org’ initiative, currently under fire in India’s public sphere. The campaign simply makes the case for closing the digital divide and empowering the digital have-nots towards universal access to Internet…org.

Facebook’s campaign for Internet.org is not telling you that it is…

STIFLING END-USER CONTROL

Why not offer free data and allow the end-user to decide what s/he wants?

At present, Internet.org houses:

  • Facebook, Duh. LirneAsia reports that as per their field research, a large number of Indonesians and Africans seem familiar, intimate even, with Facebook, but remain oblivious to the Internet phenomenon!

  • Select (by whom? on what basis?) apps of high social utility value, while leaving out some others, including critical e-governance services.

  • And a trickle of some other applications. The platform may have ‘opened up’ since last week, but the truth of the matter is that *conditions apply*. The invitation is valid insofar as the apps are not heavy content/media intensive, so as to avoid negatively impacting ‘network management’, and to enable a ‘viable’ business model to incentivise Facebook and Reliance.

This is hardly a philanthropic ‘Internet literacy initiative’!

Our Internet did not begin in this spirit. We saw that the Internet not only presented people with the opportunity to ‘seek’ of it, but also to ‘create’ with/for the people, and ‘share’ with all the people – to that extent, end users are active participants and wield influence. Internet.org, on the other hand, in one way or the other, seems to make those value choices for the future netizen. In essence, Internet.org is, in fact, application-biased, restricting end-user participation in the knowledge economy. *

Facebook’s campaign for Internet.org is not telling you that users will be…

LOCKED INTO WALLED GARDENS

There seems to be a general assumption that users of the Internet.org platform will ultimately transition to the wholesome goodness of the Internet, though the campaign’s focus seems to end at promoting the former and betrays no concern about the latter. But few or none justify how suspended links and toll gateways will prompt an audience who cannot otherwise afford data, to smoothly transition from Internet.org to the Internet unless the idea is to hook the digitally disenfranchised and bleed them dry.

It was precisely for this reason that Indonesia’s telco XL Axiata pulled out of the Internet.org partnership, in early April – they were unconvinced of the app’s upselling potential. Besides, what is the guarantee that meanwhile, most content providers will not be sucked in by this free and, therefore, hugely popular blackhole, to cash in on the sizable consumer pool, thereby disincentivising subscribers from migrating at all? Then, this watered down version of the Internet will be the only Internet that subscribers will ever know.

But, most importantly, Facebook’s campaign for Internet.org is not telling you that…

THE USER BECOMES MORE TRANSPARENT WHILE THE PLATFORM REMAINS OPAQUE

The initiative, undoubtedly, coughs up huge privacy concerns as Facebook’s data policy openly declares that user data (‘like phone number or data usage’) will be shared between Reliance and Facebook, to help them better understand your needs. This is Facebook dodging “accountability” by making a case for Deep Packet Inspection, which:

A) Compromises user privacy

B) Makes the platform susceptible to censorship. After all, the platform can serve as a singular, efficient choke-point!

C) Facilitates easy consolidation of user data based on the entirety of the subscriber’s Internet usage, thereby paving the way for the unprecedented rise of data monopolies!

*Economy based on creating, evaluating, and trading knowledge.

Article by Manasa PV

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