Facebook Is Now a Free Version of the Internet, But Is It a Fair Version?

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Founder of Facebook and tech wunderkind Mark Zuckerberg recently announced that the social network’s Internet.org service, which hopes to bring the web to developing parts of the world, will be open to all, after facing harsh criticisms that the project goes against the ideals of net neutrality.

Facebook launched its free Internet.org app in February after striking a deal with mobile operators. The smartphone app allows users to access pared-down versions of websites, such as Facebook, Wikipedia, and a number of other international and local news sites, without incurring any data charges.

Critics, however, say that the service’s limitations go against the idea of net neutrality, a principle that Internet service providers and governments alike should treat all data on the Internet — each and every one of the 4.49 billion webpages online — equally, without discriminating or charging users differently based on whom they are, where they go online, or how they go online.

Essentially, by giving away free access to only certain websites and not all of them, Internet.org was creating an unequal internet.

“Today, we’re taking the next step with Internet.org by enabling anyone to build free basic internet services to help connect the world,” said Zuckerberg in a Facebook post. “We’ll make faster progress towards connecting everyone if we all work together and give people even greater choice of services.”

Now, Facebook has opened up its free platform to all developers, provided that their services run on cheaper feature phones in addition to more powerful devices, and that they’re not data-intensive.

“Connecting everyone is about preventing discrimination too. More than 4 billion people don’t have access to the internet and the opportunities it brings. If we connect them, we’ll lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty,” said Zuckerberg. “If we want everyone to share the opportunities we have, then it’s our responsibility to bring everyone online in a way that respects an inclusive net neutrality.”

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