The Ethics of Internet Basics

I recently read a fascinating article in the Guardian this morning, which I believe captures the arguments on both sides well Although it specifically discussed the recent reactions to media asymmetry to the attacks in Brussels the reasoning behind has relevance to understanding how ineffectual critiquing Zuckerberg’s Free Basics are.

Using Malik’s reasoning, I believe that the neo-colonial criticism reduces the relationship between Free Basic’s and the countries it targets to an ‘us and them’ relationship. Academics like Dr Vandan Shiva see Free Basics as an attempt to control the minds of marginalised Indians “Zuckerberg wants not just a slice, but the whole pie of the basic economy of the Indian people, especially its farmers and peasants.”

While I acknowledge that it appears to be self-serving for Zuckerberg to include Facebook in Free Basics it should be noted that this service has become a vital link for all people. I feel it is simply a coincidence that Zuckerberg happens to own it. I would have personally preferred if he had simply set up a charity or donated to the Indian government.

Further to this there is nothing to stop Free Basics from extending its service to a variety of different social media, particularly competitors of Zuckerberg. More to the point there is nothing to stop the Indian Government from working with Free Basics to deliver much needed services to people who are otherwise ignored. Indeed why don’t you ask the people who are at the receiving end of the service maybe they might approve of Free Basics

To my mind it is another form of racism that assumes any help is an attempt to control the resources of a country. It makes people feel uncomfortable that a white wealthy individual would want to assist in the development of a different countries. Certainly, we should be cautious about Zuckerberg but the imperialism argument means that any form of assistance from the west is looked upon with the suspicion and that is not very effective.