A different view over Facebook’s Internet.org initiative

A little answer to Charlie Custer ‘s articleDisconnect: Mark Zuckerberg is trying to hoodwink India”.

After reading a lot of analysis from various people around the internet about Facebook’s initiative, I ended up on Charlie Custer’s article which I think does provide a fairly good description and explanation over what’s going on.

There is however still one think that bothers me: in all those points and articles, we always come down to the same conclusion or feeling, without explicitly saying it: “Mark Zuckerberg’s initiative is bad”.

I think it’s not, Internet.org is great, and here is why.

First, the idea

Internet.org serves basic services to people so they can get more information. When Mark does the analogy with libraries, he’s perfectly right: it is the same as providing a limited but yet important set of books from which people can learn and evolve their understanding of the world.

We can say whatever we want about that analogy, this precise point does make a lot of sense. Yet when analyzing this, everybody “links” this analogy to a very different fact: the fact that in this case the “library” is owned by a private organization: those are simply just two very different facts. Taking the idea step by step, you have to differentiate. So please, acknowledge first, the idea that providing a certain amount of information to everyone like in the form of a library, DOES MAKE SENSE. PERIOD.

Second, the format

If you then separate the first idea from the point that precisely pisses people off, we arrive at the format. The fact that, Internet.org itself, is mostly managed by private corporations. Now, it is true that you cannot obtain the same level as transparency and public serve offering protection with a private corporation. The government should be the owner of such an initiative. But let’s not forget another point: where Facebook is trying to provide such an alternative, meaning a country such as India, the government itself DOES NOT provide such a service.

Therefore, who is really to blame here? The corporation that is trying? Or the government that is not doing its job. Bottom line is: it’s easy to point fingers at the ones who are trying, and to forget the ones who are not in the first place. Internet.org is, after all, an initiative meant at filling a gap or need, with a goal that is perfectly reachable. If it is so, why is the Indian government not on top of the issue? That is the real problem here. Not Mark Zuckerberg and his initiative.

Third, the conversation

Now the last issue in this whole debate comes to an issue that is as universal as how flawed we are as human beings in our behaviors: communication. We are such poor communicators, that the schema ends up like this: one proposes a solution to a problem or need, in the best way it can, the other rejects on the bases of pure political and emotional factors.

Facebook: me trying but clearly not perfect. Government answer: me not happy, ME BLOCK YOU.

But, wait a minute.

Did at any time Mark Zuckerberg mention that he was against constructive discussions and/or modifying the way Internet.org works OR even giving greater participation to the government into its governance model?

I have not seen any evidence of that.

So essentially the ideal discussion would be :

Facebook: we propose this. Here is the model, here is the way to do it, here is the technology.
Government: it’s not great that you guys are so involved, so how about we propose in return: we take your stuff, let you participate and fund if you wish, but then provide this as public service from the government?

If you look at the ideal answer and stick to what we know from the information provided on the web, what we know is that right now, in the ideal answer, Facebook/Mark seem to be doing the job/their part.

What we don’t know, oddly, is… well how is the government reacting besides “let’s block it all!!!” ?

Which leads to my conclusion: stop making Mark Zuckerberg the bad guy here, and try to analyze things in a bit more clarified and structured manner.

And please, STOP DEMONIZING COMPANIES. People who work do things for profit for sure, but I think we can also recognize that tech has an excellent track record as an industry for trying to do stuff for a better world. And nobody can deny that there is good ethics in that.

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