Internet.Org continues to receive backlash from net neutrality advocates

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The Facebook’s Internet.org which is aimed to fix Global connectivity is facing huge outcry all over the world. Many countries and groups have criticized the initiative for violating net neutrality and favoring Facebook’s own services over its rivals. Internet.org which is a partnership between social networking services company Facebook and seven mobile phone companies had plans to bring affordable access to selected Internet services to less developed countries by increasing efficiency and facilitating the development of new business models around the provision of internet access, the plan is however facing challenges in some countries and people.

Evgency Morozov in Sunday Review of New York Times wrote that Internet.org is a gate way drug. He argued that users will not have access to internet but only certain subset of it which is in contrast with the idea of an internet equal and free for all. Mark Zuckerburg however supported Internet.org in the last Mobile World Congress in Barcelona when he stated that it will provide an increased access to jobs, healthcare and other basic opportunities. A good example of opportunity that was mentioned in the Congress was the Asikana Network which is a women’s rights non-profit organization which is using the Internet.org infrastructure to help women learn about their legal rights through a dedicated app.

Community groups around the globe have challenged the expansion of Internet.org since it will give internet access to the two-thirds of the world not yet connected to it. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was opposed and accused of creating the two tiered internet in which the world’s poorest people will only be able to access a limited set of insecure websites and services. More than one million people in India have signed a petition asking country’s telecommunication authority to ban Internet.org, and this led to a number of technology companies pulling out of Internet.org in April claiming it threatened ‘internet neutrality’ the principle that all date should be treated equally.

In Canada, Chile and Netherlands have claimed that the practice is discriminatory. They have argued that Internet.org should be restricted or banned in those countries as Internet.org endanger freedom of expansion and equality of opportunity by letting service providers decide which internet services will be privileged over others thus interfering with the free flow of information and people’s rights vis-à-vis networks.

Another negative implication is that if Internet.org is the only gateway to the Internet, then governments will have the capability of blocking certain websites or accounts by putting pressure on ISPs, something that’s difficult to implement in an environment with multiple Internet gateways. If Facebook becomes the only way to internet access for millions of people, governments will only need to control a single centralized checkpoint to block or limit the flow of information.

It’s not just negatives that can be found in Internet.org. In Kenya we have Airtel that has enabled its customers to access, free of charge, AccuWeather, BBC News, BBC Swahili, Baby Center & MAMA, Brighter Monday, Facebook, Facts of life, Girl Effects, Jamii Forums, Facebook Messenger, OLX, SuperSport, Totohealt, UNICEF Ebola Information, Wattpad and Wikipedia through partnership with Internet.org.  The know that several of those free sites and apps are advantageous to most Kenyans because of the alleged free access, for example access to jobs advertisements and applications in the rural areas that be enabled by Brighter Monday.

What is your opinion on the topic?
Erick Vateta
Tech Editor at Kachwanya.com
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Erick Vateta is a lawyer by training, poet, script and creative writer by talent, a model, and tech enthusiast. He covers International tech trends, data security and cyber attacks.
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