Mark Zuckerberg, the billionaire Facebook founder, recently unveiled plans to offer a ‘free’ internet – essentially a sponsored internet portal through which limited filtered content can be viewed – to the world’s poor through his Internet.org endeavour.
A group of internet activists from around the world, however, have taken exception to the idea, accusing Zuckerberg of treating the poor as a lower class who don’t deserve to benefit from net neutrality, all in the name of ‘free’ internet; free from cost, but not free from corporate control. Digital rights activists across the globe have, quite rightly, accused Zuckerberg of attempting to violate the concept of an open internet.
Brazilian activists have written to President Dilma Rousseff, an advocate of Internet.org, to protest, saying, “We believe this project … could jeopardize the future of Brazil’s information society, the digital economy and the rights of users on the network, such as privacy, freedom of expression and Net Neutrality.”
The e-mail, written by Cristiana Gonzalez of the University of Sao Paulo, continued, “If defending Net Neutrality is a challenge, try convincing policymakers that there are better solutions to affordable access than offering the ‘free Internet’ via cellphones.”
In Nairobi, tech entrepreneur Ali Hussein Kassim said, “The Googles and Facebooks of the world can lure local users onto their global sites and platforms, but what happens to local Internet entrepreneurs who are trying to launch their own online businesses and services?”
“It’s like inviting me into your house and telling me that I can do this and that,” Kassim added. “People like us will continue pushing and pushing and pushing and pushing until they hear us. We will not give up.”
Zuckerberg, in a particularly pissy rebuttal to criticism, said last week, “We have to ask ourselves, what kind of community do we want to be? Are we a community that values people and improving people’s lives above all else? Or are we a community that puts the intellectual purity of technology above people’s needs?”
Niels ten Oever, head of digital for free speech group Article 19, was one of many who took exception to Zuckerberg’s rhetoric, responding, “It’s not the community of people that are fighting for Net Neutrality that are depriving people of full Internet connectivity. It’s the telcos, companies and governments that have the capacity and resources to do so, but who don’t.”
Zuckerberg does not want to bring free internet to the masses, he wants to inflate his Facebook userbase and monetise an untapped resource. The sooner he is honest about that, the better.
Thank you Moyers & Company for providing us with this information.