Facebook Renames Controversial Free Internet Service, Online Domination Efforts Continue Unabated

by Matt Klassen on October 2, 2015

On the face of it Facebook’s global Internet.org is a worthy example of altruism in action, a company concerned about connecting the unconnected billions on our planet; bringing the Internet, nay, global interconnectivity, to every man, woman, and child.

In fact, Facebook explained the project in this way: “This is a set of basic websites and services to introduce people to the value of the internet, and that we hope add value to their lives. These websites are very simple and data efficient, so operators can offer these for free in an economically sustainable way. Websites do not pay to be included, and operators don’t charge developers for the data people use for their services.”

Now perhaps it’s my inherent scepticism, or my basic observation skills that have led me to conclude that Internet.org is anything but altruistic, as this effort stands as nothing but a portal for Facebook to brand itself as the very Internet itself, pushing its own services in an effort to hook the masses before they truly get connected.

In an effort to combat this negative perception, however, Facebook has rebooted this program, renaming the app and mobile website “Free Basics by Facebook,” in an effort to distinguish it from the company’s other Internet.org endeavours, hoping some rebranding will help give the company’s global domination efforts a fresh face.

Facebook announced the rebranding last week: Starting today, more than one billion people who have access to Internet.org’s free basic services across Asia, Africa and Latin America will now be able to access more free services through the Internet.org Platform.  ..today, more than 60 new services are available across the 19 countries where free basic services are available. Not only does this expand the range of resources available to people, it gives them more choice and control over the services they can use in the app and website.

Today we’re also announcing a new name for the app and mobile website — Free Basics by Facebook. We’re making this change to better distinguish the Internet.org initiative from the programs and services we’re providing, including Free Basics.

Now there’s no question that efforts to connect the enormous number of people across the globe who lack regular access to the Internet are both worthy and necessary, and to that end there is a small part of me that appreciates what Facebook is doing. I mean, can we really expect true altruism from capital-driven companies? Facebook sees a need and sees an opportunity, a win-win situation in many people’s eyes. Not only that, but the Free Basics that Facebook provides are, at first blush, incredibly useful tools, offering information ranging from parenting info to basic business tools.

But of course that ignores the reality of what Facebook is trying to do here, hoodwink the unconnected billions into associating Facebook and its branded services with the entirety of the online world, by offering them free access to a small, controlled sliver of the Web. So will a name change help the social network shed the critics of its global Internet project? Unlikely, but what it does do is hint at CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s larger vision, as clearly Facebook’s Internet.org initiative is more expansive than simple a predetermined set of online services.

Granted this likely comes across as unwarranted fear-mongering, but I’ve made no bones about the fact that Facebook and Google’s growing dominance in the global Internet market is disconcerting, simply because I see the Internet as something that belongs to the people, whereas these companies clearly see it as something to be packaged, distributed, and controlled, and that, my friends, is bad for all of us.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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