Facebook’s effort to bring free internet service to developing countries is facing major backlash as 65 advocacy organisations across 31 countries protest Internet.org.
In an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO and founder, the group said the project violates the principles of net neutrality and threatens freedom of expression, security, equality of opportunity, innovation, and privacy.
Internet.org will see Facebook partnering with several wireless carriers to provide an app offering free access to specific internet services on mobile phones in developing countries.
However, a group of Indian publishers backed out of the programme as it allegedly violates the principles of net neutrality, which is the idea that internet providers must treat all online services equally.
In defending the project, Zuckerberg said it can “coexist” with net neutrality. He explained that it is better to offer some services for free in order to provide more people access to the internet.
Global public advocate Access Now’s Josh Levy believes that Internet.org only exacerbates existing inequalities.
“The goal here is for poor folks to get limited access to internet services and then, eventually, be prompted to pay for a data plan so they can get the full internet,” he said.
Levy noted that most of those people will not be able to afford the data plans and will be stuck on the second tier, which does not offer full internet access.
He suggested that Facebook transform Internet.org into a service that offers free access to the entire internet at lower cost by introducing super low data caps.
“You can come up with creative ways to connect people to the internet that are affordable — and that protects security and privacy,” said Levy.