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Facebook Faces Backlash Against Internet.org

bbc.co.uk
There’s a lot to be admired about a desire to bring internet access further across the world, assuming that’s the primary intent. Whether Mark Zuckerberg really does believe in the society-elevating power of increased connectivity or he just wants more people using Facebook, it seems like the Internet.org initiative might not have been as well thought out as we all assumed.

Numerous digital rights groups across the world have signed a letter to the Facebook high command asserting that the entire scheme needs a serious rethink. The problem is that the version of the internet being pushed is extremely limited in what it offers. In the broad strokes you can get Wikipedia, BBC News, Accuweather and a few other informational resources, as well as some local news and weather services. Oh and Facebook. The big USP is that you don’t have to pay anything (but a wider, paid service might subsequently be introduced).

The argument being made against it by ICT Watch (Indonesia), i Freedom (Uganda) and many others is that this runs counter to net neutrality and that it is unfairly weighted against small start-ups, that it doesn’t allow for a level playing field. In short, they argue that rather than bringing the internet as we know at further across the globe, they are introducing a kind of ‘Facebook value internet’ with restricted options that its users have no real say in.

It’s a valid argument, whilst it must be taken into account that such restrictions are a result of the limited data usage that Internet.org will be able to play with, given the way it works, the overall impression from the marketing had been that it was going to provide full internet access, rather than a very select set of sites which were decided by Facebook and partner ISPs without any input from the people who will actually be using it.

Zuckerberg is already taking steps to stem the dissatisfaction by inviting start-ups to join the cause, but has also taken criticism on that front due to some restrictive requirements about the kinds of sites which would be allowed. There are also concerns about privacy and vulnerability towards government monitoring.


This initiative was always going to have something of an uneasy birth, but in order to be able to let the system grow it has to be  tested in the field. Facebook will likely argue that it’s better to put a restrictive, downsized version out there and improve it over time as feedback continues to trickle in, but it’s worth remember that nobody is rallying against it, they just want a fairer system.

Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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Facebook Faces Backlash Against Internet.org Reviewed by Callum Davies on Friday, May 22, 2015 Rating: 5

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