Internet.org and the Global Internet Dream
The promise of the Internet to promote gender equality, health and education in the developing world can be seen as the global internet dream. For the two-thirds of the planet lacking internet access, making this dream a reality is a major challenge moving forward.
Facebook’s internet.org platform has been seen as having the potential to better promote this dream. And though the problem certainly has the potential to greatly improve conditions of connectivity worldwide, a lack of attention to net neutrality and privacy separates that potential from progress and puts users of the platform in danger.
A letter posted to Facebook on May 18 by advocacy group Access Now, and signed by a variety of organizations, criticized the issues and the groups demands.
On issues of net neutrality, the platform has been criticized for the practice of zero-rating, defined in the letter as “the practice by service providers of offering their customers a specific set of services or applications that are free to use without a data plan, or that do not count against existing data caps.”
Along with assisting the platform in zero-rating content creators, the proxy server makes the surveillance and censorship of the platform easier. In an article titled, “Internet.org is Not Neutral, Not Secure, and Not the Internet,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation points out that HTTPS encryption on sites which run through the proxy server is only possible on the Android version of the service. Though this certainly provides protection to some users, the majority of those that could benefit from using internet.org have basic feature phones, on which Android software is not usable. The May 4 update to the program also prohibits TLS and SSL encryption, according to the letter posted by Access Now.
As a result, oppressive governments will be able to pressure Facebook to provide information about individual users, block web pages and even block users. This lack of security assigns a responsibility to Facebook which endangers users, the letter alleges.
Facebook responded to these concerns in an article titled, “Internet.org: Myths and Facts,” though the response has been seen as inadequate by critics of the platform, with issues of encryption and net neutrality remaining key points of criticism.
The promise of the global internet dream is Facebook’s vision in the creation of internet.org. And though the service currently has the potential to make that dream a reality, greater steps must be taken by all parties involved for the two-thirds of the population for whom that dream matters most.
– Andrew Michaels
Sources: Facebook, Access Now Electronic Frontier Foundation, Internet.Org,, Hindustan Times, SiliconBeat
Photo: TNW News