This article is a highly opinionated piece of work and is not endorsed or sponsored by Facebook or any organisation. It is all me. While I would gladly entertain constructive criticism and discussion, heavy moderation would be applied to trolls and baseless arguments.
So, Facebook’s Free Basics and it’s outrage. If you remotely follow social media news, you surely would’ve come across someone claiming how Facebook is fooling people or some very beautifully made parody of Facebook’s Free Basics campaign. However, while almost all the intelligentsia of India and the sheep – who follow every viral campaign without actually reading about it – are against Free Basics, I am not.
The reason I have so plainly refuted what the others are passionately debating about is because I have what I like to call the third stand on the Free Basics debate. In this post I will highlight my stand, without reviewing, critiquing most of the popular ones.
Let’s start by saying and establishing the fact that no matter how much Facebook argues for it, Free Basics is not net neutral. Unfortunately, that is the truth. Facebook might have gone far and beyond on their end to make sure its neutrality but any service that favours one option over the other is not net neutral and that is where the line gets drawn. However, I also believe that it doesn’t have to be. I know this sounds a bit absurd and illogical but I’d prefer if you hear me out on this. In my opinion, those who have access to 3G, 4G and WiFi have no right to argue for and against a service that they won’t end up using anyway. The service is not for them. It is for those who are yet to be introduced to the internet and therefore, their opinion is invalid anyway. Besides that they live in a democratic country so they’re allowed to speak out but in the end, if the service does not affect them and they’re going to pay for accessing those services anyway, they should not intervene.
What is the intelligentsia’s argument? Let me sum it up for you. “Why is Facebook giving some websites for free? If they have to, then they should do this for every website possible!” Can you really not see the error in this notion? So, because you don’t like it and now because of your elitist attitude, those who might have gotten to Wikipedia to ultimately realise that Free Basics is in fact not net neutral won’t even get to see Wikipedia for another set of undecided years. In short, you won’t use Free Basics and won’t let those who really need it to use it too? Makes sense.
AiB, a very popular and now beautifully commercialised Youtube channel even went as far as to add the following to their Save the Internet 3 video – “Hamare videos pe bi ads aa gaye, Free Basics pe to aa hi jaenge” and in my opinion, that is blatantly stupid. Firstly because, your Youtube channel and working hard on it was in the end for monetary measures therefore, aapke videos pe to ads aane the. Secondly, they also mention that Facebook’s claim that they will not use Free Basics data is false because “Jo company aapke data ko use karke paise kamati hai, wo aapka data use nahi karegi?” I doubt a company that has a thousand channels to earn revenue would decide to force revenue out of the only one that they actually said they’ll be keeping ad-free and will not use its data. To be honest, I found the entire video very opinion-based and I don’t mind that. However, if you argue for saving the internet, you ought to be a little more subjective and unbiased.
As per my friends list on Facebook (I can’t seem to chuckle on the irony of it) almost all of those who are ever so actively arguing against Free Basics on the idea that it violates the principle of net neutrality won’t shy from piracy which again violates a principle that sort of makes the internet unhealthy. Actually, arguing for net neutrality nowadays has become the newest thing for satisfying that insatiable need of getting likes (on Facebook) and saying that you’re against piracy is like social suicide in India. While both net neutrality and anti-piracy fall under ethical principles for the internet.
Everyone is portraying Free Basics and in fact, Facebook itself as this evil empire that will swoop things away but had Google decided to give India free internet, I highly doubt the mass reaction would be the same. That’s bound to happen if your reputation is a little notorious. However, Free Basics is a need for getting those online who aren’t yet given how the carriers in India have been really cooperative with their little jibe at the country’s net neutrality. I sincerely believe it is a good step for developing countries and if this is any consolation, if you’re against it, you’re always free to pay for any or all internet services you wish.