Facebook and Google are being dubious about India's net neutrality
For long, tech companies have claimed that they are different. Now we know it is not true.
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India is still waiting for the government to formally weigh in on the net neutrality. There seems to be some delay in the final recommendations. A person associated with Save The Internet movement suspects the delay is just a ploy to tire out those who are in favour of net neutrality, so that when the anti-net neutrality norms are brought in there is not much noise against them.
But this piece is not about the delay. It is about the hypocrisy of technology companies like Google and Facebook on net neutrality when it comes to India. These companies have always managed to convince the world that they are different the usual profit-mongering corporations of old times. The tech firms claim that their mission is to make the world a better place. Google does it by loudly proclaiming to be the proponent of "do no evil". Facebook's mission, in the words of its CEO Mark Zuckerberg, is "connecting the whole world... and giving every person a voice".
But it has started to unravel. Historically, tech firms have been in favour of net neutrality. The reason is simple. The idea of net neutrality, which, in simple words, says that all bits on the web are to be treated equally, has helped companies like Google and Facebook start in garages and dormitories and win against biggies like AOL. But now that they are the giants, the argument of these companies is also changing.
Facebook, in its attempt to push its internet.org, is disingenuously running a poll on its website where it is asking Indian web users if they want free internet or not. The choices are yes or say something later. People don't even have the option of no. Google, on the other hand, has been uncharacteristically silent on net neutrality in India. But that doesn't mean it has nothing to say on this matter. In emails leaked by Nikhil Pahwa of Medianama, the company apparently asked Internet and Mobile Association of India to tone down the pro net-neutrality recommendations that the organisation submitted to the government.
For long, tech companies have claimed that they are different. But first the NSA leaks in the US and now the net neutrality debate in India has exposed the hypocrisy. The tech firms were different and stood for something new when they started out. Now they are just big old corporations, employing the same old tactics that we once associated with oil giants or finance firms.