One of Facebook’s most prominent (and controversial) initiatives is its Free Basics project, dedicated to providing free Internet access to people in poor or remote areas around the world who otherwise wouldn’t have it. It’s a noble goal on its face, though many critics accuse Facebook of using this charitable outreach to control the future of the Internet itself. Even more fuel was added to the fire this week when The Washington Post reported that Facebook is currently in talks with the White House to bring free Internet to the United States, too.
Facebook ran into big trouble in India recently when its Free Basics program was recently shot down. Regulators there banned it after consumer groups argued that Facebook could handpick the services that users are able to see and access, thus creating a monopoly on information. The social media giant is likely meeting with the government to ensure a similar ruling won’t be reached if it brings its free service stateside.
Critics were quick to point out what this move could indicate for Facebook’s long-term goals in the U.S.
“We already know that Facebook is willing and able to influence the kind of news people are reading. Facebook could control the tubes that deliver that information, as well,” Adam Clark Estes wrote in Gizmodo. “It feels inevitable that Facebook wants to control how the Internet works in America.”
The thought of Facebook controlling more of our Internet is a scary thought, but only time will tell if American consumer and privacy groups actually allow it to do so.