The Hyderabad chapter of the Free Software Movement of India (FSMI) is going to organize a four-day long campaign against Facebook’s controversial Free Basics initiative.
“Facebook misinformed and under informed its users about Free Basics,” Siddhartha, a member of Swecha, part of FSMI, told ET.
FSMI is a national coalition of various regional and sectoral free software movements operating in different parts of India, and is also running an online campaign to highlight the problems with Free Basics through its website.
Free Basics, which Facebook says is part of its Internet.org initiative, aims to provide free access to basic internet services by partnering with telecom companies. Such practices, commonly referred to as “zero-rating,” allows users to access select applications or websites, free of data charges, by striking deals with telecom operators.
Facebook’s “Save Free Basics” campaign, launched a couple of weeks ago, is urging users to show support for digital equality in India, in response to a paper by the telecom regulator which is seeking comments on differential pricing practices such as Airtel Zero of Facebook’s Free Basics.
It has been labeled “misleading” by people supporting net neutrality for being misleading, and exploiting its over 130 million monthly active users base in India, as Facebook’s latest campaign asks people to support “digital freedom”.
“Facebook first spoke about digital equality. Most of the people who actually sent their email are fine with the idea of digital equality, and that is the reason they sent that email. Also, Free Basics is nothing without any data connection. It doesn’t give Internet, it gives Facebook services,” Siddhartha added.
The FSMI campaign will run until December 29, and will seek to mobilize support for net neutrality from within the districts in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. It began on Saturday with around 200 people, and FSMI expects this number to rise to about 2,500-3,000 people by Tuesday.
The collective is running multiple rallies and camps to spread awareness about Facebook’s Free Basics violating net neutrality, and simultaneously reaching out to people in other cities like Bengaluru, Chennai and Delhi.