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Appropriating social space

Appropriating social space
Highlights

Facebook has launched a massive campaign in the name of Free Basics.

Facebook has launched a massive campaign in the name of Free Basics. The so called Free Basics is a collaboration of Facebook, Reliance at the moment and any mobile operator can join it. This is nothing but rebranding of infamous internet.org.

There is an attempt to garner support for Free Basics through notifications and messages on Facebook itself. Many netizens are complaining that they unwittingly sent email to TRAI in support of Free Basics because of a misleading and deceptive Notification mentioning Digital Connectivity on everyone’s Facebook profile.

People were also complaining that their accounts are blocked temporarily, features restricted, when they started responding by saying “No to Free Basics by Facebook “.There seems to be a frantic bid to censor any kind of opinion against facebook. This is just criminalising social space.

To be a part of Free Basics one need to comply with the terms & conditions of facebook, which would entail only few corporations and their brands made available to people. There are about 3.5 billion internet users in the world and 1 billion internet websites. It means that the user to creator ratio is around 3:1. If the access is restricted to individuals from the whole World Wide Web by providing limited services, the democratic face of internet will be reversed.

Even the inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners Lee has given a call to oppose internet.org to keep the internet open. He has categorically stated that Free Basics (internet.org) is neither free nor internet. If Facebook or the telecos really want to offer internet to the sections that cannot afford, there are many ways to do that.

In a country where broadband connectivity is very dismal, the focus should be on building infrastructure that helps internet penetration. Providing truly free internet connection to all corners of India need not involve surrendering our privacy, security and the very roots for the growth and success of internet; net neutrality.

When internet connectivity is available to a village, it is possible to provide free internet connectivity to everyone that is not only unrestricted but also provides many more useful services. Cheap and simple devices can achieve this, with the help of the government, village panchayats or collectives.

Corporations like Facebook and Reliance should not be given any scope to meddle with spectrum, a public infrastructure and subvert the very cause of its existence. Reliance is not a charity organisation to facilitate Free Basics by subsidising the services on internet for Facebook.

The reality is that Free Basics is not about free internet but offering select content of those corporations who are part of Free Basics. This would lead to Balkanisation and colonisation of internet where content distribution will be monopolised by few companies. The admirers of free social space cannot but oppose attempts to appropriate the World Wide Web.

The ventures like Free Basics can create cartels between telecom companies and few global internet monopolies. This will result in further concentration of economic power on internet which would stifle innovations. No to enclosed and discriminatory internet. Yes to open and democratic cyberspace.

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