On my Facebook timeline and on my notifications I often see friends supporting ‘Free Basics by Facebook’ which means – Facebook will make Internet free at a certain level and will allow people to access ‘BASIC’ websites that is necessary for an individual. Now, this sounds brilliant to you? Okay! Yes, it does to me too!
Don’t get misled by full page advertisements on newspapers; Free Basics is not free, basic Internet, as its name appears to imply. It has a version of Facebook, and only a few other websites and services that are willing to partner with Facebook’s proprietary platform.
And, here are a few things you should read in-between the lines and here is what you should learn about Facebook from its past and what this could mean actually:
Facebook as a Platform is Highly Commercialized
Facebook is a highly commercialized as a platform. Few years back, they launched Facebook pages, where people started building free, paid communities with an organic reach of cent per cent. Now, the usage has plummeted. Brands who invested in ‘likes’ campaign then build a community, considering the fact that it allowed them to reach customer base, that too for free. Brands who built communities with millions of followers now needs to allocate budget to boosts the post in order for it to reach their own followers. It is a case of déja vu now. Free Basics is going to be devoid of ads, they say. No prizes on guessing what will ultimately transpire. I am in favour of free Internet but not free basics, especially when they are going to decide which sites to be used. (This was quoted by me in The Asian Age)
With Free Basics They Fetch More and More Data
Currently in India there are approximately 130 Million Facebook users and that’s almost 40% of Internet using population in this country. With the activation of ‘Free Basics’ more and more people will get on the Facebook bandwagon and that will help Facebook fetch more personal data of people. Remember, Facebook advertisements allows advertisers to target people on the basis of Age, Sex, Sexuality, Location, Marital Status, Relationship Status, Engagement Status, Long Distance Relationship, Job Role, Current Employer, Parenting status, Mobile phones they use, Facebook page admins, interest of the audience, pages they like, companies they work with, expats of any country living in any country and lot more other specifications that is offered by the users on their profile or captured as part of their activities on the platform. We all know for a fact that Facebook and Google’s revenue model is based on monetizing our personal data and selling it to advertisers. As per an article published in ‘The Hindu‘, Facebook generates an estimated revenue of nearly $1 billion from its Indian subscribers, on which it pays no tax.
Supporting this Will Then Distinguish Basics and Advanced
There are sites that are listed under Free Basics and there would be sites that wouldn’t – this is where the question of Net Neutrality comes into the picture. There are higher chances that these websites that are not listed under free basics will be charged heavily by the network service providers. Nothing can distinguish basics and advanced of Internet – its not a subject and everyone has a different need! In India almost 60 Million people joined Internet using mobile phones in the last 12 months alone despite the high cost of data charges. Another 600 million mobile subscribers in India haven’t even connected to the Internet yet. Instead of calling it ‘basic’ Internet, we need to provide full Internet at the affordable prices. When compared to other countries, India has expensive internet and hence the penetration of internet is becoming slow. It’s time TRAI regulates the cost of Internet. Facebook should work towards ‘Internet for All’ and not ‘Basics of Internet’ at this point of time.
Ad Free Platform?
It currently says it would be an ‘Ad Free‘ platform for people accessing Facebook version through free basics but doesn’t say it would NEVER advertise on these platforms. For the amount of commercialization that it has done to Facebook pages today since 2008, there are higher chances they will introduce advertisements stating ‘To support the ‘Free Basics’ we need to earn some revenues’. Remember, Facebook DOES produce revenue, about Rs. 12,000 crores worth globally (Source: Article by Mahesh Murthy on his LinkedIn Profile)
It’s a Strong Monopoly Gimmick
Facebook wants to stay the King of Social Media world – I am not denying the fact that they truly are the king today for the kind of innovation they do! They acquired ‘Whatsapp’, they acquired ‘Instagram’ – the social networking platforms that were the actual game changers in the social media world. Their strategies have always been to play the monopoly game, with Free Basics, they will make people oblige to Facebook for offering something for free – win more loyal audience and then probably not allow access to Google Search, Twitter, LinkedIn and other competitors?
This cartoon will pretty much sum up on how we blindly follow trends:
Here are some really interesting articles that you must read on why you should oppose Free Basics:
- Mahesh Murthy’s article that contradicts all the points that Facebook puts across in full-page advertisements. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/facebook-misleading-indians-its-full-page-ads-free-basics-murthy
- Facebook’s Reply to the remarks made by Mahesh Murthy. http://thewire.in/2015/12/30/facebooks-rebuttal-to-mahesh-murthy-on-free-basics-with-replies-18235/
- Everything you need to know about Free Basics: an Interesting article by The Indian Express: http://indianexpress.com/article/technology/tech-news-technology/facebook-free-basics-ban-net-neutrality-all-you-need-to-know/