trap of Free Basics from Facebook

Earlier called Internet.org, Free Basics is a misleading campaign by Facebook that is aimed at offering access to a limited number of Facebook-partnered websites and apps free of cost to the user. This campaign is promoted by Reliance in few states of India, namely Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Goa under the name Internet.org. However, it was furiously opposed by Technology experts and analysts for a good cause.

To begin with, the name Internet.org indicates that Facebook considers itself as The Internet, which is not even close to the services it offers. Even the father of Internet, Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web, suggests users not to entertain scams like Free Basics.

Net neutrality focuses on the fact that access to the Internet and content of the Internet should be equal to everyone, irrespective of the location and Internet Service Provider (ISP). To educate yourself more on the very topic, read our earlier story.

How is Free Basics being advertised?

Firstly, Free Basics is Internet.org, carefully wrapped in a fairytale name. While we are on the topic, Free Basics name itself is fraud. It is not free! Only those websites and apps that are partnered with Facebook will be accessible for free. If you want to access any other site, you will have to pay Facebook. Now we just have one question. Facebook is supposed to teach the unaware the actual use of Internet. But how is Facebook planning to do that when it doesn’t want to let its users decide what is best for them? Ironically, Facebook “accidently” asked people outside India to vote for Free Basics and send emails to TRAI. It shows how impatient and greedy people at Facebook really are.

Facebook also launched a print and digital media campaign “Connected India,” asking users to give a missed call, automatically sending a message to TRAI in support of Free Basics. Facebook is now asking its users to send an e-mail to TRAI supporting “essential internet for all.” It lays the claim to have gained support from 3.2 million of its 130 million users in India. However, according to a few net neutrality volunteers, many of Facebook’s 3.2 million supporters for Free Basics were non-Indians. (Source: Business Standard).

Facebook then launched various campaigns in India using social media websites as well as every Billboards and advertising screens. Zuckerberg expected this to be a cakewalk before the unexpected protest he faced. He later thrown out agitated statements to Media saying he is providing free Internet to billions of Indians who are uneducated and still deprived of Internet.

Who are all against Free Basics?

  • Father of Internet laid strong beliefs against Free Basics in an interview.
  • “Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder of Paytm, the wallet turned e-commerce firm has called Facebook’s actions as similar to “East India company.”
  • IIT, IISc scientists, protest against Facebook’s Free Basics.
  • FSMI Hyderabad launches a campaign against Free Basics. The campaign also talked about alternatives to Free Basics, such as FreedomBox — a project that combines smartphone computing with a wireless router to create a network of personal servers and protect privacy during daily life.
  • Writing in the Hindustan Times, India’s Save The Internet coalition maintained that “Internet.org is Zuckerberg’s ambitious project to confuse hundreds of millions of emerging market users into thinking that Facebook and the internets are one and the same.”
  • Naveen Patnaik, CM, Odisha, said: “If you dictate what the poor should get, you take away their rights to choose what they think is best for them.”
  • Technology analysts Prasanto K Roy believes that Free Basics is good for Zuckerberg to consider India as a “great business opportunity” and pick up his next billion Facebook users.

After receiving 50,000 comments on MyGov forum, TRAI intially decided to suspend the plan till December 30 and extend it further until January 7, 2016. Not every day we get a chance to contribute to the political plans of the Government. This time, instead of bubbling over destruction for an opportunity, let’s try and stop the destruction.

We are strongly AGAINST Free Basics!

Free Basics is not at all free. Users will horribly suffer from the biased partnership tilt while browsing the REAL internet. Additionally, Zuckerberg has not denied the possibility of tracking its users. However, Facebook is promising not to use that data; they will do to some extent. When did India handed over rights to some foreign authority to dictate what content should we be accessing on the Internet, that too under the violation of Net Neutrality regulation guided by TRAI.

Although Free Basics is claiming to increase the partners eventually, it is explicitly stating that it possess the rights to turn them down. But one of his requirements – that the websites should not include the HTTPS, TLS or SSL encryption technologies – caused fresh controversy. However, a Q&A published on Internet.org’s site promises it will begin to support SSL and TLS “in the Internet.org Android app in the coming weeks.” Mr. Zuckerberg recently posted a message on his Facebook page promising that support for HTTPS is under development.

The applications will have to apply for licensing according to Free Basics’ protocol and wait until you get it, and all the free calls service VoIP provider will have to pay for licensing. All the webpages offered must be basic in form to minimize data consumption i.e. high-resolution photos, videos and voice chat facilities will not be permitted.

Why Reliance-exclusive?

Free Basics platform is available to subscribers, under the name of ‘Freenet’ when they log into Reliance Communications’ website or must use select Android apps, Internet.org’s website, Facebook’s Android app or the Opera Mini browser. If Facebook had good intentions, why they are not upfront and open to other telcos? Evidently Zuckerberg is not ready to negotiate on the clauses. Instead, he said, “I am surprised that India is not feeling grateful for Free Basics.”

Our Appeal: Save The Internet!

We appeal our readers to take a very strong stance on this issue and ask the Government of India not to entertain Facebook. If some foreign company can brainwash the Government of India into something, don’t you think we, the tax-paying citizens should have more control over our DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENT?

We do not want you to sign up for anything without thorough knowledge. Please read our previous story if you have not yet understood the severity of this issue. We will support Free Basics the day Facebook stops believing that Facebook = Internet, Free Basics = Charity and Mark Zuckerberg = Godfather of India.

We don’t need unlimited access to a limited number of Websites. Instead, we will appreciate a limited bandwidth to be located anywhere on the Internet at free of cost.

Send an email to TRAI to #SaveTheInternet, TODAY!

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