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Free Basics and Internet.org : The Mohini Trap by Facebook

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The Facebook CEO Mr. Zuckerberg wants to create a better, more open and connected world for his new born daughter,  but in India he is facing a huge problem in achieving his goals because about 1 year ago when he launched internet.org and many netizens protested against it as it was against net neutrality. After this type of shocking response their marketing team derived a new way to make their boss happy and renamed it to “Free Basics” as they thought we Indians will never say  NO to something which is free. Well last week after a very huge debate on internet TRAI asked reliance to cease Internet.org services till any further decision.

Now, Facebook is aggressively marketing Free Basics to get it accepted by India’s Telecom regulator. They are publishing full page newspaper ads, TV ads roadside banners, even moving ads  and online ads. They stooped so low from their standards and started sending constant notifications to all their Indian Users to click a button which will send a mail to TRAI saying that you support ‘Free basics’.  They make their ads look like they are doing a favour for India through ‘Free basics’ and our evil government is stopping their good efforts. And, if you do not accept their nagging notifications, then they make it look like you are a bad person who doesn’t support ‘digital equality’ showing the list of your friends who support it. Here in fun fact ‘Digital Equality’ is a term coined by Facebook to confuse everyone that it is related is Net Neutrality.

Now coming to the point what exactly is free basics or internet.org? In my perception i think of Free Basics as Mohini Avatar of this digital generation and it is treating us (Indians) as Asuras (Daemons). Mr. Zuckerberg is acting as medium of communication to this Mohini Avatar is constantly telling everyone that Free Basics (Internet.org) is going to provide access to basics services like health, education, jobs and local government information and till date they brought billion people online by offering these services in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Similarly like Mohini told Devs and Asuras that she will distribute Amrita equally and everyone knows what happened there Smile with tongue out. By his words it looks like it’s going to change the world but Facebook is playing with us same as Mohini played with Asuras (Daemons).

What Facebook wants is our less fortunate brothers and sisters should be able to poke each other and play Candy Crush, but not be able to look up a fact on Google, or learn something on Khan Academy or sell their produce on a commodity market or even search for a job on Naukri.

1. Facebook Proxy Server: This is a serious privacy concern. Whatever you do on this platform will be known by Facebook. All traffic is routed to Facebook server before it gets forwarded to websites that integrate with this platform. Facebook can read your emails, userIds, passwords, messages, sites you browse, what you buy, what you read and every minute detail.

2. Easy for mass surveillance: All users data will be going over to Facebook servers. It becomes single point of integration for government to do mass surveillance. Even if you are not doing anything wrong, you are still going to be watched – all time.

3. No Google search: Bing is the only option for search. Users miss out the best search engine that opens up world. As I understand, if Facebook free basics only allow the websites that have been integrated, Bing search result will only show results from those websites. People will never ever will be able to search and get relevant content available widely. Instead of moving forward quickly, users may be locked 20 years back behind the world.

4. No video – No youtube: Think of a poor kid sitting in ruler area of country with access to Khan Academy videos think of his growth, Video is one of the best learning medium as it breaks the language barrier, but in Free Basics Videos are not available at all, presumably to conserve bandwidth so it can be retained for more important things like villagers sending each other Candy Crush requests.

5. Facebook’s approval for integration: Every website that needs to be part of free basics needs to submit their details to Facebook. Facebook may deny websites on various grounds. Imagine every website in world needs to submit to Facebook for approval? Facebook will be the bottleneck for website developers and for users too. Facebook can easily use free basics to create a false environment around you to believe in and trust that this is what Internet is. Building boundaries around Internet is like locking users in their house or town and believing it as world. Here are limited set of websites available for free basics user.

6. No Bank website Integration:  Indian government is promoting bank account for every Indian. People would like to transact and see check bank balance. Best medium to do this is using phone, however there is no bank or any secure service available on free basics. With Facebook-proxy service, I hope no bank will step to integrates with free basics and provide insecure access to bank account. Platform is so insecure to build any meaningful functionality use of it.

7. No other IM apart from Facebook messenger: Only facebook messenger available for chat. Zero competition for facebook.

8. Tight Integration requirements for website developers: To comply with free basics, websites that integrates with facebook has to follow below norms. This limits any website to integrate with free basics easily. Huge set of modifications are required which in turn takes development and testing cycles for companies to provide free service to Indian users – I bet, small and medium level companies will even think of supporting and maintaining their websites for this.

Net Neutrality – No way: Looking at all the above technical details, there is no thought given to Net neutrality by facebook. It’s purely facebook centric strategy to gain users and own their data.

Look at the above technical details and relate them to Mohini Avatar and what it did to Asuras, It cheated them by giving false visuals and tried to gain there attention then caused them to kill themselves, She even convinced Bhasmasura to set himself on fire that exactly what Facebook is doing giving false visuals about internet.org and telling us that our friends are supporting we should support it too. (Setting Ourselves on Fire)

India is the epicentre in the digital “Imperial Race” to get next 1 billion users on mobile, the only place left to get them is India, as other place China has successfully retained it’s strategic control and protected it’s future wealth by blocking Facebook, Google and many such services since very beginning. China also gave timely support to build it’s own local alternatives and is engaging with rest of the technology world at it’s own terms. India can not do the same because in our 70 years of freedom we totally ignored our primary education system because of which large swathe of our country is still riddled in caste, superstitions and religious insularity. We also forgot to build our own base for scientific discoveries and inventions.

In their ads, they’ve been claiming they want to bring “digital equality” when they’re actually bringing digital slavery or digital apartheid to our poor.

Facebook says it is doing this out of some charitable aim to get more of India online. (As though spending a large portion of your India revenues on full page ads pushing a so-called charity is apparently charity.) It’s obviously business.

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg i love your idea of data for charity, but if you really mean to do charity then offer something that is the entire internet to people, not just your chosen sites. Like say 500mb a month free to every Indian”. You can, but no, you won’t do that. You want use our government’s bandwidth to get our poor using Facebook with no other real option in sight.

So let’s sum it up.

Yes, as Internet Right Activist i am against Facebook’s attempt to disconnect Indians from the full internet. Yes, I am opposed to the digital apartheid they want to bring about, giving the poor only Facebook but denying them other sites.

And yes, I’ll be happy if they just gave data free, without terms and conditions – after all, it’s our wireless network they want to offer their service on. It has to work for us the people of India, not just for the owner of Facebook.

There are many other reasons why Facebook Free Basics Digital Apartheid is bad. It’s bad for entrepreneurs – your business can’t be discovered by these new potential users on the internet till you advertise on Facebook. The same goes for big businesses.

Also, if Facebook is allowed to get away with this then every other company will offer it’s own “free Basics” with other sites and we will grow up as a fractured country, unable to speak with each other because we are all on different, unconnected micro-networks.

I am happy to support any effort that brings the full and unfettered internet to as many Indians as possible, as cheaply as possible. This is not that effort.

And in Real world there is no such thing as free lunch.

Free Basic means ‘Free Basic users for Facebook’ and NOT ‘Free Basic Internet for poor’ and If you dictate what the poor should get, you take away their rights to choose what they think is best for them.

So if you don’t want to fall in trap of this Mohini Avatar visit http://www.savetheinternet.in and send an e-mail to TRAI saying not to approve FREE BASICS.

Source:  Quora, Mahesh Murthy LinkedIN
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