What’s wrong with Facebook-sponsored Internet access?

Mark Calder, eLearning Africa, Feb 09, 2015
Commentary by Stephen Downes

This column is an argument in favour of a new type of internet access which allows a Facebook and "selected health, employment and local information websites" to run without data charges, but which will see fees levied for any other sort of internet use (like, say, this newsletter). What's wrong with this? asks the author, responding to what he calls a diatribe in the Guardian. "This vision of a single demoniacal institution consolidating its power at the expense of the poor is misleading... Facebook is no alcove, but rather a powerful tool by which members of developing nations can create their own networks, beyond traditional media." To be fair, Facebook isn't the first app to do this - Skype has been doing to for some time, to enable calling. But this takes it to a new level. If Facebook really thought this service did not exploit the poor, it would be rolling it out in places like New York and Tokyo. But of course it won't. It will use the poverty of people to entrap them into an environment where normal internet freedoms are, to use a phrase, "rendered quaint."

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