Kumar Sundaram

Mark Zuckerberg’s idea of internet.org, claiming to create free internet but actually leading to separately sellable and controllable segments within internet has found a partner in the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Modi is India’s Hindu supermacist PM brandishing himself as a ‘development man’ who will bring progress to the country by pushing technological growth, bringing foreign investment, creating jobs and even getting a permanent seat the the UN security council – not through some coherent policy framework but by simple miracles of leadership. Although critised globally for its sinister design, the Facebook CEO’s internet.org suits Modi’s megalomania and his right-wing cheerleaders turning his every act into an epic by sheer cacophony on the social media. Even the mainstream media in India, owned by the big corporate houses backing Modi, has an almost uncritical celebration of everything about Modi, particularly his foreign policy.

Modi is in the US for the UN General Assembly meeting and he met the CEO of Facebook yesterday and the result is this Modi-berg which seems to have just hit net neutrality in India.

Tip of the Modi-berg?

Zuckerbeg ModiInternet.org is an idea to provide internet for free to some, but in the process creating a more layered and controllable internet on the other side. While the free package won’t include more than 50 websites and that list has to be a result of a deal/favour with Facebook, the paid internet will also get segmented on the basis of speed and restrictive niches based on interests and trends. Internet as free platform through which a blogger or a group can reach out with its idea to the people through web will be history.

If your website/blog is not part of some package that people can subscribe, you can almost forget about being heard on internet. And such packages would be more attractive because of the specific interest they would cater and also possibly made more affordable by websites that will join specific packages and earn advertisements.

And what about the Indian poor?

Internet packages on mobile have become costlier since Modi has assumed power. Restricting the poor to limited number of websites cannot be a way to allow them internet access.

Indian poor are nothing more than a chip in sinister bargains.

If you want to end net neutrality, justify it by claiming its providing free internet to the poor.

If you want concessions in the climate change negotiations for domestic corporations like Adani who fund your election, bring in the Indian poor and say we need to emit more.

For getting a dangerous nuclear deal passed, the earlier govt famously used the dream of lighting bulb in the house of a poor rural woman called Kalawati.

The poor of India in fact provide a rich dividend for its elite.

The fact is, Modi’s policies have led to more farmer suicides, more corporate-driven displacement of the rural poor and loss of jobs in the rural as well as urban India. Internet is still shut down in Modi’s Gujarat. Zuckerberg is trying hard to end net neutrality through internet.org And both are together talking about empowerment through technology!

For more details and perspective on net neutrality and facebook’s internet.org, see these two links:

First an article simplifying internet.org for you –

Facebook’s Internet.Org Promises Free Internet For All. But Here’s What They’re Not Telling You

And a video which explains the threat to net neutrality succintly, although it was made in a slightly different context when India’s Depart of Telecommunications was trying to push it with partnership with some domestic corporations.

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