Robin Hood in reverse: Mark Zuckerberg’s internet.org takes from the poor

facebook executivesWould-be rulers of Africa and IndiaFollow the money, which is flowing from poor countries to the U.S. giant  Facebook is putting up no money for the free traffic, Instead, Zuckerberg is demanding ISPs in poor countries subsidize Facebook. The companies have little choice but to give in before a competitor does. Facebook has hundreds of millions of users without broadband. Facebook will market aggressively the local carrier who agrees to subsidize Facebook. Even with Facebook’s changes to allow more into the program they are excluding 95+% of Internet sites. The carriers are given “an offer they [almost] can’t refuse.” Their people are younger than Marlon Brando was but in general are less subtle.

Put another way, Internet.org does not offer even 5% of the Internet, is not a non-profit organization and extracts money from poor countries to benefit wealthy Americans. Take a look at Zuck and his multi-millionaire colleagues in the picture. 

This is far more than an issue of “net neutrality,” “zero rating” or false advertising. Facebook & Google/YouTube have enormous scale and a big cost advantage. This is a huge obstacle to competition developing, especially outside the major developed countries. I originally believed Facebook was buying control of the web throughout the world, something pretty ugly. I didn’t expect to discover it was “buying” nothing. Instead, Zuck’s minions threaten dire consequences for telcos who won’t give Facebook  preference. 

The misinformation is massive. Until the recent changes, 99% of Internet sites was not accessible via “Internet.org.” The much heralded move toward openness will leave at least 95% of Internet sites unavailable. Ignore the pr and read the rules about joining at https://internet.org/platform, especially the technical requirements. I’d be very surprised if even 5% of websites will ever qualify. In particular, no African, Brazilian or any other serious competitor to Facebook will be allowed. They do that by blocking anything that uses voice or video, crucial parts of Facebook and subsidiaries. 

 

The wholly owned subsidiary of Facebook is not a non-profit group despite the .org name. Much of the world had that wrong, including the Guardian, Britain’s best newspaper. They’ve just amended an article that had reported Internet.org as a non-profit. Wired hasn’t corrected their headline on the subbject yet. U.S. Ambassador Sepulveda and others need to rethink whether such a limited service is worth supporting.

I couldn’t print this story without absolute confirmation “It does not pay operators for the data used when people connect to the Internet.org app’s free basic services.” Quartz is one of the very few other news outlets to discover “Facebook does not pay the telecom company” for the free service.  I got the story in Google translation from an Indonesian source and got direct confirmation. 

Facebook’s new hire, Kevin Martin, a friend, is insightful enough to realize “white man’s burden” thinking is wrong in the 21st century and I hope they listen.  

 

 

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