KOLKATA: It has been a topic of hot-debate in the recent times, as social networking site Facebook started large-scale campaigning in India to spread its idea of ‘free essential internet service to all’. Facebook claims that everyone should get empowered to use internet and that it is striving for the cause by providing selected useful sites for free through the platform ‘Facebook Basics’.
In short, Facebook Basics offer free browsing of selected or participating sites on its platform, so that the poor who cannot afford internet will have a chance to get basic internet services. However, the idea put forward by Facebook has been criticized by IT professionals and other sections of the Indian democracy. Several Non-Governmental organizations in India, opposed the move from Facebook alleging that it ‘violates Net-neutrality’.
Following the fresh publicity from Facebook and growing opposition from different parts of India, the TRAI has asked for the opinion of the public through social platforms till January 7, 2016. In the meantime, it has requested Reliance to stop offering ‘Facebook’s Free Basics service’ till TRAI issues proper guidelines with respect to ‘Net-Neutrality’.
Academicians from India’s premier institutes of IITs and IISc are the latest to slam the Facebook’s Free Basics concept. Faculty from the top institutes based in Bombay, Patna, Kharagpur, Delhi and Madras criticized the initiative from Facebook terming it as ‘misleading’ and ‘flawed’.
About 50 members from the faculty of IITs in India, issued a joint statement stating that Free Basics from Facebook is a lethal combination, which can totally damage the freedom of Indians on how they use the internet. Listing out three important facts from the Facebook’s proposal, the scientists have urged the Telecom ministry of India to completely reject the concept of Free Basics from Facebook.
The statement read, “The first obvious flaw in the proposal is that Facebook assumes control of defining what a ‘basic’ service is. This flaw is not visible to the lay person as it’s a technical detail, but it has deep and disturbing implications. Since Facebook can access un-encrypted contents of users’ ‘basic’ services, either we get to consider health apps to be not basic, or risk revealing health records of all Indians to Facebook. The third flaw is that the term ‘free’ in ‘free basics’ is a marketing gimmick”.
“We, urge that the TRAI take immediate action and totally abandon the concept of Free Basics from Facebook”, the statement concluded.