In India Facebook’s plan for world domination (read our report) is met by strong opposition – rallying under this banner:
Whose Internet is it anyway?
The information we send and receive via Internet is transported on invisible communication pathways, in Tanzania mostly through the air and sometimes via cable. Private telecommunication operators (TELCOs) are licensed by our government to build and maintain these digital information highways. We users buy internet-bundles from a TELCO of our choice, be it Tigo, Airtel, Vodacom etc.. In return we have the right to up- and download ANYTHING we like – until the bundle is used-up!
The governments of USA, Brazil, The Netherlands and Canada are already enforcing Net-Neutrality by law, because TELCOs can’t be trusted to keep-up the rules, if bending them yields extra money.
This is how “bending” works: Let’s say that a new start-up provides a video-streaming service for German Bundesliga football. By deep-packet-inspection a TELCO identifies all these bits of all bundesliga-streams and deliberately slows their speed. At the same time the TELCO offers the start-up a “High-Speed Pass”. At the end the price goes up for the consumers…
Our common Internet will be split-up into “internet-light”, “internet-standard”, “internet-all-inclusive”, with extra-packages available for extra-money, as ridiculed by the comedy group AIB in a video, which became an instant hit in India. It was reported, that Facebook even temporarily took it off-line to sabotage the protests. 😕 For this reason we saved one copy (31MB) for you on our KUKU-server 😀 .
- Mobile app makers register with ‘Airtel Zero’ to give customers toll-free access to their apps
- Airtel informs customers about these toll-free apps
- Customers download and access these apps at zero data charges – and enjoy their favorite online tasks (e.g. entertainment, shopping) for free – even at zero mobile balance
Welcome in the Digital Tyranny, where billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg or Sunil Bharti Mittal allow you free access to their private internet of their choice, which defines “favorite online tasks” as “entertainment [and] shopping”!
Shocked by the intensity of Indian protests, many companies realised, that the membership in the billionaires’-cartel will cost them more in bad publicity than they can gain form it. Interesting, how the online travel-agency “Cleartrip” explains, why it pulled-back:
[A] few weeks back, Facebook reached out and asked us to participate in the Internet.org initiative with the intention of helping us deliver one of our most affordable products to the more underserved parts of the country. […] Since there was absolutely zero money changing hands, we genuinely believed we were contributing to a social cause.
But the recent debate around […] the idea of large corporations getting involved with picking and choosing who gets access to what and how fast […] has us now concerned with influencing customer decision-making by forcing options on them.
So while our original intent was noble, it is impossible to pretend there is no conflict of interest (both real and perceived) in our decision to be a participant in Internet.org.
We believe that the Internet is a great leveller and that freedom of the Internet is critical for innovation. Cleartrip is and always will be a fully committed supporter of #NetNeutrality.
Facebook’s invention of “coexisting double-standards”
On April 16th, Facebook’s CEO Zuckerberg reacted to the Indian shitstorm generated by his Facebook-Zero project. Alas 10 of the 15 paragraphs in his blogpost just contain tear-jerking sentiments about the great human misery in parts of the world and his vision about
Internet getting connected as ultimate saviour.
[S]ome people have criticized the concept of zero-rating that allows Internet.org to deliver free basic internet services, saying that offering some services for free goes against the spirit of net neutrality. I strongly disagree with this.
“Some people” – is it really a minority, if the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India received more than one million petitions?
But net neutrality is not in conflict with working to get more people connected. These two principles — universal connectivity and net neutrality — can and must coexist.
Where Zuckerberg discovers two “principles”, there is nothing more than two different attributes to the same thing: ‘connectivity’ is a technical term, and ‘neutrality’ a moral standard.
- Universal connectivity means the freedom to access anything on the entire internet.
- Net neutrality1 means the freedom to access anything on the entire Internet without discrimination.
So how does the Facebook CEO explain the difference?
“If someone can’t afford to pay for connectivity, it is always better to have some access than none at all.”
Hold it: 😀 have we just been told to shut-up if we have no money and be grateful for what we get?
Better than nothing?
At this point we should ask ourselves: who is Zuckerberg representing – does he really speak in the name of the underprivileged disconnected of countries he is no citizen of, or is he rather a secret agent of U.S. investment capital? At least his Indian billionaire counterpart is honest about his intention: “‘Airtel Zero’ can work as a highly efficient marketing mechanism”.
“I do think that over the long term, that focusing on helping connect everyone will be a good business opportunity for us.” – Dave Wehner, Facebook’s finance chief, Facebook Q4 2014 Earnings Call Transcript
“Millions of Facebook users have no idea they’re using the internet”
Researchers were surprised, that in developing countries the number of people responding ‘they use Facebook’ was much higher than those who said ‘they use the internet’. But what does it mean if masses of first-time adopters are duped when ‘going online’ – instead ending up in a closed, proprietary network where they must play by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s rules?
“If the majority of the world’s online population spends time on Facebook, then policymakers, businesses, startups, developers, nonprofits, publishers, and anyone else interested in communicating with them will also, if they are to be effective, go to Facebook. That means they, too, must then play by the rules of one company.”
“If the price of giving everyone internet access is total domination by Facebook, it’s not worth it”
Under this headline, the UK newspaper The Guardian reported about Facebook-Zero:
The term for this wheeze is “zero rating” and it’s fiendishly cunning. Sure (say its advocates), it effectively locks poor people into Facebook’s walled garden, where they can be “monetised” if they ever have anything worth monetising. But isn’t limited access to an online world made up of Facebook, Google, Twitter – and maybe Wikipedia thrown in as a gesture of goodwill – better than no access at all for people on the other side of the digital divide?
This is a pernicious way of framing the argument, and we should resist it. The goal of public policy everywhere should be to increase access to the internet – the whole goddam internet, not some corporate-controlled alcove – for as many people as possible. By condoning zero-rating we will condemn to a lifetime of servitude as one of Master Zuckerberg’s sharecroppers2.
Click to see in which countries Free Basics is available and supported by which mobile operators.
Update 23/12/2015: As The Times Of India reports today, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has instructed Reliance Communications to suspend their “Free Basics” service – formerly known as “internet.org”.
But the paper notes, that so far Reliance has not complied to the order and the service is still available.
When contacted, a spokesperson for the mobile operator refused to comment or answer a questionnaire on the subject. A questionnaire to Facebook on the issue also remained unanswered until late night.
That’s why such untouchable, unaccountable companies are appropriately characterised as “Digital Tyrannies“.
Update 01/01/2016: The Tyrant strikes back full force 👿
Facebook responded with full-page ads in newspapers and Mark Zuckerberg hit back in an editorial for the Times of India, saying that his critics were falsely claiming the service was offering less choice. On the Indian Facebook a form popped-up automatically urging all users to hit a button, which sends a “Act Now To Save Free Basics In India” message to the Regulatory Authority, automatically filled with the user’s data of course.
“With one billion Indian people not yet connected, shutting down Free Basics would hurt our country’s most vulnerable people. I support Free Basics – and digital equality for India. Thank you.”
Wow 😛 – isn’t that a bold statement to confuse ‘Free Basics’ for ‘Digital Equality’? 😆 The supporters of Net Neutrality countered in their editorial that “Facebook is just trying to play on the fact that most of us click the like button on its platform without reading or understanding the complete picture.” What upset them most was, that Zuckerberg tried to marginalise them as “a small, vocal group of critics” – to which they responded on Facebook with an Open Letter to Mark Zuckerberg on Net Neutrality advocacy in India.
More trouble for the Evil Empire 👿
Facebook’s “Free Basics” service, delivered via Etisalat to the Egyptians, has been stopped too. The giant ad platform told the Associated Press it hopes to “resolve the problem soon.”
“We’re disappointed that Free Basics will no longer be available in Egypt,” it said. “More than 1 million people who were previously unconnected had been using the Internet because of these efforts.”
Meanwhile in Europe:
Facebook is tracking everybody by placing a small text file called “datr cookie” on his or her device, without asking for permission, a requirement by EU law. Therefore the Belgian Privacy Commissioner ruled, that Facebook has to stop tracking non-members, or face a daily penalty of €250,000. But instead Facebook will no longer allow Belgium non-members of its social network site to access Facebook pages of companies or organisations. But how can Mark Zuckerberg claim, that Facebook is providing free access to the Internet – when a membership is required?
“Belgium isn’t applying Belgian law, it’s applying European law, so if they’re applying it in Belgium why shouldn’t they apply it everywhere in Europe?”
Maybe Belgium is showing the world the way to take-back the control of the Internet from Facebook?
Breaking News: India says no to “free” internet! Read this informative report about the final decision of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India: “India just banned ‘zero rated’ Facebook. We should too”
Despite Facebook’s massive propaganda-campaign, the Indian government has decided against a foreign billionaire’s monopoly-scheme by Digital Apartheid. 😀
After the TRAI ruling, Facebook board-member and Silicon Valley venture capitalist Marc Andreessen tweeted: “Anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades. Why stop now?”
Did nobody tell Andreessen, that in the 1700s, India’s GDP was 24.4% of world GDP? After more than two centuries of legalized pillage (under British rule), it had shrunk to 4.2% at the time of independence in 1947.
Andreessen subsequently deleted the tweet and withdrew from the debate: “For the record, I am opposed to colonialism in any country.” Zuckerberg went on distance: “I want to respond to Marc Andreessen’s comments about India yesterday. I found the comments deeply upsetting, and they do not represent the way Facebook or I think at all.”
Update 30/08/2016: The Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) about Net Neutrality
BEREC Guidelines on the Implementation by National Regulators of European Net Neutrality Rules have been drafted in accordance with Article 5(3) of the Regulation (EU) 2015/2120 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 November 2015.
Download_BEREC_Net_Neutrality_Guidelines_30082016_final PDF, 300 KB.