Facebook Spam Tricks The Internet Into Supporting Company's AOL-ification Of Developing Nations
from the this-post-brought-to-you-by-Facebook dept
For much of the year Facebook has been under fire for trying to dress up its attempt to corner developing nation ad markets under the banner of selfless altruism. Facebook’s plan is relatively simple: through a program dubbed Free Basics, Facebook plans to offer developing markets a Zuckerburg-curated, walled garden version of the Internet, for free. Under Facebook’s vision of this program, Facebook becomes the axle around which online access (and therefore online advertising) spins for generations to come, with the tangential bonus of helping low-income communities get a taste of what online connectivity can offer.
But many critics have complained that such a model gives Facebook too much control. Partner companies quickly dropped out of the program, unhappy that Facebook got to decide which content was “zero rated” (exempted from wireless usage caps) and which wasn’t. Companies like Mozilla similarly argued that if Facebook was so keen on helping the poor, it should finance access to the actual internet. Others worried that having one company as a powerful gatekeeper not only poses problems for competition, innovation and speech, but helps create a central repository for subscriber data that would prove an irresistible target for hackers, governments, and oppressive regimes.
Facebook’s response to all of this criticism was to call these concerns extremist, and to imply that if you’re questioning Facebook’s motives, you’re hurting the poor.
The problem (for Facebook) is that as India spent much of the year trying to craft net neutrality rules, government regulators agreed with this criticism, suggesting that what Facebook was attempting was glorified collusion. This week, in a desperate attempt to sway the government toward Facebook’s AOL-esque vision, the company decided it would be a good idea to use Facebook users to automatically spam the Indian government. Users who logged in were greeted with a message that automatically sent a message to Indian regulators lamenting a “small group of vocal critics” trying to derail free Internet access:
Curiously, several Indian Facebook users who’ve received this message claim that by simply scrolling down the notice, Facebook sends your message to the government without your tacit approval:
— Accidenteshwari (@accidenteshwari) December 18, 2015