Facebook's Zuckerberg: If You Oppose Our International Power Grab, You're An Enemy Of The Poor

from the shining-beacon-of-hope dept

Last week we noted that India had shut down Facebook’s Free Basics program, arguing the company’s plan for zero rating Facebook-approved content and services is effectively glorified collusion; an attempt to eventually corner global ad markets under the banner of altruism. The country has been trying to craft net neutrality rules, and has slowly realized that whatever neutrality looks like, Facebook deciding what content Indians get access to isn’t it.

Obviously this has annoyed Facebook, which, under the international lobbying leadership of former FCC boss Kevin Martin (historically tone deaf to the nuances of net neutrality here in the States), has consistently tried to shame critics of the program as extremists and enemies of the poor. That narrative continued this week, with Facebook running ads in Indian newspapers claiming that Facebook’s walled garden had miraculously helped the nation’s farmers improve their crop yield:

This was accompanied by an editorial in Indian newspapers by Mark Zuckerberg, also promoting the amazing strides made by “Ganesh the farmer”:

“A few months ago I learned about a farmer in Maharashtra called Ganesh. Last year Ganesh started using Free Basics. He found weather information to prepare for monsoon season. He looked up commodity prices to get better deals. Now Ganesh is investing in new crops and livestock. Critics of free basic internet services should remember that everything we?re doing is about serving people like Ganesh. This isn?t about Facebook?s commercial interests ? there aren?t even any ads in the version of Facebook in Free Basics.

It’s the aggressive pretense that Facebook’s engaged in pure altruism that has made the company’s efforts so obnoxious to many, including a growing legion of Internet activists in India. Many are smart enough to realize that once Facebook is entrenched as the gatekeeper to content, it will be entrenched as the cornerstone of developing nation ad markets. So yes, while there’s no ads embedded now in Free Basics, it’s obvious that there eventually will be. And as companies like Mozilla have argued, if Facebook is so in love with the helping Indian farmers like Ganesh, why not help fund access to the actual Internet?

Facebook’s no stranger to net neutrality, having had a front row (albeit largely apathetic) seat to similar debates in countless countries, including the States. Yet Zuckerberg pretends to be shocked that anybody could possibly oppose a plan that doesn’t provide access to the full power of the Internet:

“Who could possibly be against this? Surprisingly, over the last year there?s been a big debate about this in India. Instead of wanting to give people access to some basic internet services for free, critics of the program continue to spread false claims ? even if that means leaving behind a billion people. Instead of recognizing the fact that Free Basics is opening up the whole internet, they continue to claim ? falsely ? that this will make the internet more like a walled garden.

Except a walled garden is exactly what Facebook is building. And pretending the entire country’s poor will somehow be left behind if one doesn’t support Facebook’s vision of the future isn’t just misleading, it’s obnoxious. Facebook’s zero rated ambitions don’t operate in a vacuum; countless citizens, companies and organizations have spent years working to bring real Internet access to India’s poor every day. Projects like the open source Freedombox, which manages to encourage connection to the actual Internet while simultaneously supporting concepts like encryption:

Offering a restrictive, curated version of the Internet over last-generation, lagging telecom infrastructure isn’t a revolution, it’s a stage play. About the only thing Facebook’s supplying here that could be of use to India’s poor farmers is Zuckerberg’s seemingly inexhaustible supply of manure.

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Comments on “Facebook's Zuckerberg: If You Oppose Our International Power Grab, You're An Enemy Of The Poor”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Lets put some quotes on what Zuckerberg is doing:
“Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past”
– George Orwell, “1984” – Ideology of IngSoc

And how he stands to profit from it:
“Knowledge is power. Information is power. The secreting or hoarding of knowledge or information may be an act of tyranny camouflaged as humility.”
– Robin Morgan

As much as Zuckerberg is trying to paint his opponents on this issue as dimwits and morally repulsive, his willingness to skirt on answering the specific concerns presented to him is causing objective readers to see his finger do a 180.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re:

This doesn’t mean they aren’t collecting personal
> information that can be later used to target ads.

Just because Facebook is collecting personal information do not assume that Facebook intends to use it to target ads.

Also do not assume that personal information cannot be used to improve the calculations of whose organs are most profitable to harvest first.

jlaprise (profile) says:

Half a loaf...

With 80%+ of the Indian population unconnected, any solution(s) to help them get online is welcome, walled garden or not.

My biggest complaint about this whole discussion is that for the most part support and opposition to Free Basics is voiced by people who already have Internet access. The people I’ve spoken to who want access and don’t have it largely don’t care about the issues that the rest of us talk about. We’re talking about it as a luxury or a right (down) to people who don’t have it at all.

I’m a fan of a more the merrier plan. Let everyone try to expand access.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Half a loaf...

It is quite a devilfish to swallow: If Facebook gets to do it, so does everyone. As soon as everyone does it, it will matter what ISP you use for what information you find and how it is presented to you. Thus ISPs by virtue of cooperating with an access limiting entity (Facebook here) will inevitably strenghten the call for censoring the internet.

While spreading the internet is admirable, the effects on the rest of the internet from free-rating and therefore us with access is very unfavourable. I would rather have it done right instead of introducing these gatekeepers and thereby a clear target for autocrats or aspiring cleptocrats to manipulate.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Half a loaf...

Yea, the start of a good ole bait and switch if you think about it.

Remember the movie Kingsmen? While I don’t think there is any chance that people are going to be mind controlled, there is a serious question of what is Zuckerberg getting out of this?

You know as well as I do, nothing is free and guess what… the piper will be coming to call one way or another. If we follow your logic through to its natural course then you could eventually agree to reinstating slavery for people that have nothing so long as 1. the slaves are feed their 3 square meals a day 2. have shelter 3. have clothing.

Sadly it it just to easy to control a population when YOU are the one that gets to pick and choose what information comes and goes! And that… is just pure fucking evil!

It is better to be without any information than to only receive wrong, bad, or subversive information!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Half a loaf...

With 80%+ of the Indian population unconnected, any solution(s) to help them get online is welcome, walled garden or not.

“With XX%+ of the population unemployed, any solution(s) to help get them working is welcome, slavery or not” has kind of a similar ring to it.

Furthermore, presenting a walled garden as “the internet” is fraudulent. Fraud is not welcome.

Anonymous Coward says:


He should be the poster boy for the democratic party… constantly saying how much he cares for the poor while butt fucking them mercilessly, while the clueless poor just keep right on believing him!

There is a reason they need ignorant and uneducated minorities! Not very many other are ignorant or stupid enough for vote for them! Then again more than enough buy the words of the corrupt republican party as well! Paul Ryan anyone?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Zuckerberg...

Racist? How?
How? is it racist to tell the poor that people like Zuckerberg and the Super Rich in the Democratic Party are fooling them with lies and deceit?

Since when did “poor” or “minority” become a race? Or did you fail English in grade school? I am betting you failed English… No that’s right… shut down the argument by spewing bigotry… the good ole leftist standby against an argument you cannot win! Call them racist, xenophobe, homophobic, SOMETHINGPHOBIC!

Whatever (profile) says:

“Offering a restrictive, curated version of the Internet over last-generation, lagging telecom infrastructure isn’t a revolution, “

When they have absolutely nothing, something IS a revolution. It may mean nothing to you in your comparative ivory tower of high speed internet and such, but for them, it’s likely a big deal.

Is it the best solution? Of course not. The restrictive nature is horrible, and shows FB in a very poor light. But for the end recipients who will have something way better than the nothing they had before, let’s consider that it is still a revolution.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: How is this not AOL?

AOL was a paid for service, this is a free service. Further the Internet has advanced to where if people can set up their own sites they can start their own businesses, which is more difficult to do with a curated web. Curation will likely benefit the big corporations at the expense of small companies and start ups.

Forest_GS says:


I’m as against giving a few people power to decide what is on the open web as anyone else on here….

But a free internet service…I just feel they have no obligation to act as utility dumb pips like the $100+ internet services should.

I’m sure someone will try and use this as a case study or something saying walled gardens on paid services are “ok”, but we really don’t have a leg to stand on to fight it while it’s free.

As long as a paid version without the walled garden aspect of offered, it should be fine. If not, that is a leg we can stand on.

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