Fight for the Future has received several reports of Facebook users receiving notifications encouraging them to "Act Now to Save Free Basics in India."
Free Basics is a so-called "zero rating" plan that offers potential internet users free access to Facebook and a select few other websites, but not to the entire Web. It’s been roundly criticized as a deceptive response to the digital divide that benefit’s Facebook, not the public, and a workaround that undermines net neutrality Now it appears that Facebook is using its own platform to lobby against Indian Internet activists who have been successfully opposing the scheme.
Facebook now claims that the notifications were sent to U.S. users "accidentally." Of course, it’s impossible to verify that statement, since Facebook is a non-transparent platform.
"Facebook is abusing its near-monopoly status to mislead users into lobbying for Facebook’s corporate interests. It’s hard to imagine a better example of why we so desperately need net neutrality protections," said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, "No corporation or government should be able to decide what we can see and do on the Internet––no matter how nicely they wrap the package, as soon as we give them this power we’re throwing away our basic human right to free expression."
"Facebook’s Free Basics scheme is like trying to address global hunger by feeding everyone free McDonald’s cheeseburgers," added Jeff Lyon, CTO of Fight for the Future, "It doesn’t actually address the root cause of the problem, and it benefits corporations way more than than the general public."
Open Internet activists in India have vehemently opposed the Free Basics scam, which changed its name from Internet.org after its initial announcement generated public outcry. It’s particularly alarming that Facebook is enlisting U.S. users in its campaign against net neutrality protections in India, sparking questions about sovereignty and raising concerns about Facebook undermining the democratic process.
Fight for the Future and other groups will be monitoring this situation closely and plan to continue opposing Free Basics and all other "zero rating" schemes that violate the principles of net neutrality.
Fight for the Future is a grassroots advocacy group with more than 1.4 million members that fights to protect the Internet as a powerful platform for freedom of expression and social change. They’re best known for organizing the massive online protests against SOPA, for net neutrality, and against government surveillance. Learn more at https://www.fightforthefuture.org and https://www.twitter.com/fightfortheftr