Facebook's Internet.org Isn't the Internet, It's Facebooknet
Facebook's Internet.org Isn't the Internet, It's Facebooknet
By Josh Levy / wired.com
May 6, 2015

This week Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that Internet.org, its marquee project to “connect two-thirds of the world that don’t have internet access,” is now inviting any website or service to join the program. According to Zuckerberg, this change—which follows criticism that the program violates Net Neutrality principles—would “give people even more choice and more free services, while still creating a sustainable economic model to connect every single person in the world.”

But when you examine how the program would work, it becomes clear that rather than improve a service that is already busy violating Net Neutrality around the world, the change actually makes things worse.

It sets Facebook up to serve as a quasi-internet service provider—except that unlike a local or national telco, all web traffic will be routed through Facebook’s servers. In other words, for people using Internet.org to connect to the internet, Facebook will be the de facto gatekeeper of the world’s information. And unfortunately, Facebook is already showing what a poor gatekeeper it would be.

This kind of connectivity is not “the internet.” It’s more accurate to call it the “Facebooknet.” Internet.org will offer websites and services that are submitted directly to it, similar to how users choose apps from Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play Store. A truly open internet cannot, and must not, work like an app store with one company holding the key.

When he announced the Internet.org platform, Zuckerberg went out of his way to voice support for Net Neutrality, meaning his definition of Net Neutrality. “If a person has slower access to a video because their mobile operator demands a fee, then that’s bad,” he said. However, Zuckerberg has no issue with the practice of providing free access to some sites but not others, and that’s just as bad.

If Mark Zuckerberg actually cares about Net Neutrality, Internet.org must honor its basic principles. For instance, Facebook could leverage its significant influence by offering—or urging telecoms to offer—basic data plans, with low data caps, to vulnerable communities, enabling unfettered and non-discriminatory access to the whole internet. Such a shift would directly address the goal of connecting billions of people worldwide to the full internet.

Facebook is rapidly rolling out Internet.org all across the developing world, announcing new partnerships at a concerning rate (Colombia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Panama, the Philippines, to name a few of the recent launches). Perhaps that’s why more and more people are becoming aware of what’s at stake in the global Net Neutrality debate. Dozens of NGOs around the world have coalesced around a global definition of Net Neutrality. In India, more than a million people have submitted comments to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Net Neutrality and Indian tech companies are speaking out about Internet.org, in many cases voting with their feet by withdrawing from the program.

We’re now at turning point. The next three billion people to go online could enjoy the same empowering, non-discriminatory access to knowledge and tools for expression as the first three billion. Or they could get a second-class experience, limited to internet-connected services and applications in a walled garden built by big tech and telecom companies—with the open internet just beyond their reach.

© 2015 Wired.com

Josh Levy is Advocacy Director at Access, the global NGO that defends and extends the digital rights of users at risk around the world.

3.5 ·
1

Support Films For Action

Films For Action empowers citizens with the information we need to help create a more just, sustainable, and democratic society.

We receive no government or corporate funding and rely on our supporters to keep us going. Donate today.

Trending Today
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga25,755 views today ·
The Invention of Capitalism: How a Self-Sufficient Peasantry was Whipped Into Industrial Wage Slaves
Yasha Levine10,447 views today ·
The Mobilizing Passions of Fascism (2017)
26 min2,509 views today ·
Gabor Mate: Toxic Culture - How Materialistic Society Makes Us Ill
30 min2,416 views today ·
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min2,263 views today ·
10 Female Revolutionaries That You Probably Didn't Learn About In History class
Kathleen Harris2,131 views today ·
Sent to Haiti to keep the peace, departing UN troops leave a damaged nation in their wake
Siobhán Wills, Cahal McLaughlin, and Ilionor Louis1,310 views today ·
This Facebook Comment About the UK Election Is Going Viral
Chris Renwick815 views today ·
When We Judge a Person Harshly With a Label or Dismissal, We Kill the Human Being Inside of Them
Tim Hjersted621 views today ·
Load More
Join us on Facebook
Facebook's Internet.org Isn't the Internet, It's Facebooknet