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Facebook Communications Social Networks The Internet

Zuckerberg Defends 'Free Basics' App With Comparison To Hospitals, Education (indiatimes.com) 152

An anonymous reader writes: Facebook has been under heavy criticism for distributing its "Free Basics" app in areas of the world that have less-developed communications infrastructure. The app essentially provides free access to a limited selection of internet sites. Free Basics was recently banned in India over net neutrality concerns. Mark Zuckerberg has now published a response in the Times of India.

He says, "We have collections of free basic books. They're called libraries. They don't contain every book, but they still provide a world of good. We have free basic healthcare. Public hospitals don't offer every treatment, but they still save lives. We have free basic education. Every child deserves to go to school. And in the 21st century, everyone also deserves access to the tools and information that can help them to achieve all those other public services, and all their fundamental social and economic rights. That's why everyone also deserves access to free basic internet services."

Facebook and Internet.org are also fighting the bad publicity elsewhere online, and even in local newspapers. "In essence, Facebook is claiming that since people quickly move on from Free Basics, it's less of a threat as a restricted replacement to the neutral Internet, and is more of a stepping stone to it."

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Zuckerberg Defends 'Free Basics' App With Comparison To Hospitals, Education

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  • by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Monday December 28, 2015 @01:23PM (#51196043)

    "He says, "We have collections of free basic books. They're called libraries. They don't contain every book, but they still provide a world of good.

    The library isn't restricted in what books it carries. Not having all of them is primarily a physical space and economic limitation -- if they could carry all of them they would.

    And the books they choose to carry is determined by criteria that is not simply a short list made by their corporate sponsors.

    In contrast the restrictions with his internet access are entirely arbitrary and self serving. There is no valid comparison to be made.

    • by Lunix Nutcase ( 1092239 ) on Monday December 28, 2015 @01:25PM (#51196065)

      Plus libraries and hospitals aren't selling private info to advertisers.

      • Wanna Bet???

        im sure most will actually follow both the letter and spirit of the existing law but

        What they can "get away with" is the standard practice

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Not with libraries. You're talking about the people who, when they started getting requests for book borrowing records by law enforcement, stopped keeping records of what books someone had borrowed, and started only recording who currently has a book. They also routinely tell cops to fuck off until they have a warrant.

          They're not just another bunch of sleazeballs trying to make money by "disrupting" an industry and selling off your information to advertisers. Libraries don't give a flying fuck about profit.

        • Wanna Bet???

          Sure do!

          In the library system I work for, which serves roughly 240k patrons, we keep almost no information about a patron's activity, so that we can't hand it over. Their checkout history only keeps information on the last item they borrowed, and item records only keep anonymous information, i.e. how many times it has been checked out.

          We also offer computer usage. We do not record any information regarding what websites patrons go to, and once a session is ended, the computer is reset to a previous save st

      • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Monday December 28, 2015 @04:41PM (#51197507)

        Plus libraries and hospitals aren't selling private info to advertisers.

        And they're not in the business of selling anything. You can't go to a library and ask for a LIBRARY PREMIUM membership, that includes access to the entire collection.

        There's no such thing as library non-members or BASIC members having access to browser only a portion of the works available.

        Restrictions only exist in special libraries, such as those of research institutions or research archives that don't allow non-approved members any access at all.

        And on special works unique to the library itself, so called restricted collections that contain items restricted to either protect confidential or potentially injurious information, or ensure research access, or prevent damage or theft of high-value materials.

    • by sphealey ( 2855 )

      Public libraries too are generally run by people with a professional and personal dedication to providing the widest possible selection of information and viewpoints possible within their budgets, not the narrowest.

      sPh

    • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday December 28, 2015 @01:41PM (#51196233) Journal
      And libraries will also buy books if people who go to the libraries want them, without requiring the publisher to do anything. This is exactly the opposite of the 'Free Basics' stuff, where the consumer only gets things where the producer has explicitly opted in. His views on what public schools and hospitals provide is more a depressing commentary on how backwards the USA is than anything else.
      • Do you suspect that he believes that this is what schools and hospitals do; or do you suspect that he is using the ever-popular "present what you want to be the case as though it already is, whenever possible, as part of working to bring reality into conformity with your desires" strategy?

        There certainly are people who enjoy an utterly sincere fundamental misunderstanding; but there are also people who know exactly what the current objective is; and simply want to radically alter it.
    • Obviously Facebook isn't being entirely altruistic here, they are providing access to Wikipedia, local news, weather, Google search, health information etc. and FACEBOOK.

      Having said that, you're right the reason a library doesn't have every book ever published is primarily an economic constraint - it doesn't make sense to pay to buy and house everything ever published.

      Exactly the same constraint applies to Facebook or a mobile carrier paying for internet access - it has costs, and it doesn't make sense for

      • by Holi ( 250190 ) on Monday December 28, 2015 @01:59PM (#51196363)
        How useful is Google search when you don't have access to any of the pages it is linking to?
      • by vux984 ( 928602 )

        Exactly the same constraint applies to Facebook or a mobile carrier paying for internet access - it has costs, and it doesn't make sense for FB to pay for everyone to stream porn videos from Xvideos.com.

        See... this is a fallacy. The issue here isn't that facebook isn't paying to stream videos... porn or otherwise. If they had a 'no video' policy, nobody would blink.

        If they don't want to subsidize streaming porn videos that's fine; but its a strawman -- that's not even the issue.

        The issue is that it blocks access to:

        mathoverflow.net, linux.org, project gutenberg, ietf.org, slashdot.org, cancerforums.net, woodworkingtalk.com, and literally a million other sources of news, information, ideas, support, and so

      • Exactly the same constraint applies to Facebook or a mobile carrier paying for internet access - it has costs, and it doesn't make sense for FB to pay for everyone to stream porn videos from Xvideos.com.

        This is in part a strawman and in part false. Yes, Facebook has costs, but its decisions will be informed by its desire for profit, not a remit for public service. Just like any action of a public servant, decisions on book purchases can be challenged by civilians. There is no such accountability in Faceb

        • s/Wikipedia/Facebook/ Duh!
        • > > it doesn't make sense for FB to pay for everyone to stream porn videos from Xvideos.com.

          > This is in part a strawman and in part false.

          Okay explain to me why Facebook should pay for your porn streaming. Go ahead, and listening.

          • Okay explain to me why Facebook should pay for your porn streaming. Go ahead, and listening.

            I didn't say that Facebook should pay for this. What I did say that Facebook's justification for providing a walled garden is bogus. The long game from Facebook is not beneficial for people.

      • by mysidia ( 191772 )

        it has costs, and it doesn't make sense for FB to pay for everyone to stream porn videos from Xvideos.com. It does make sense that someone would offer to pay for your "free" access to Wikipedia, but not offer to pay for your Hulu and Girls Gone Wild surfing.

        Why does it make sense? Are you making a value judgement that Wikipedia has more useful merit, and streaming Hulu would be a recreational misallocation of bandwidth? Perhaps Hulu will be the next sponsor?

        What about accessing a competing social netwo

        • > Are you making a value judgement that Wikipedia has more useful merit, and streaming Hulu would be a recreational misallocation of bandwidth?

          Yes. Wikipedia it's more useful to struggling people in a third world country than Hulu is. It's been said "be open minded, but not so open that your brains fall out".

          > if content providers are allowed to partner with ISPs ... then the open and free internet died that day --- from then on, only billion $$$ megacorporations could become a sponsor and have their

          • by mysidia ( 191772 )

            Not a terrible guess, but we've actually already been there and done that. In the early years, ISPs actually did only carry content from partner companies.

            However, things were a bit different way back then.... these were really pre-ISP information services and BBSes, not ISPs.... they were a precursor to the consumer internet, and internet was seen as "the next big thing". The computer-using community was much smaller back then: mostly technology enthusiasts greatly interested in the next big thing: V

    • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

      The library isn't restricted in what books it carries...if they could carry all of them they would.

      If only that were true [csmonitor.com].

      • by vux984 ( 928602 )

        Context please. It "ended up on 'a' banned book list?

        WHAT banned book list? And who uses that list?

    • If he wanted the 'library' comparison, he'd need better evidence that there is a "librarian" involved.

      Libraries are, ultimately, beholden to the desires of their funding organizations; but 'librarian' is one of those funny jobs, like 'teacher', 'doctor', and 'flight crew where they are supposed to serve "the customer"; but sometimes serving the customer means telling them to GTFO and let us do our job.

      A given library can't drift too far from the objectives it was set up to fill(a K-12 collection is go
    • And the books they choose to carry is determined by criteria that is not simply a short list made by their corporate sponsors.

      Even corporate sponsored results can be better than providing nothing at all.

      I'm always reminded of my grandpa's stories from the war. There was no choice, there was oppression. People were not free to do what they want, obtain reading materials they want, and even learn what they want. Heck jobs in general were bad. So what did he do? Joined the Hitler Youth. Once he did their life was in his control and 70 years later he proclaimed it as the best decision he ever made, and under the oppression of someone

      • by hoggoth ( 414195 )

        > So what did he do? Joined the Hitler Youth. Once he did their life was in his control and 70 years later he proclaimed it as the best decision he ever made,

        LOL! So, your *PRO-ZUCKERBERG* statement is that using Facebook services is like joining the Hitler Youth?
        Marketing genius!

        • Yes, yes it is. Both are horrible when it comes to the freedom of the general public. Yet both provide at least something that would otherwise not be there.

          By the way I'm not Pro-Zuckerberg. His comparisons to libraries is as absurd as the GP pointed out.
          I am however pro-Free-Basics even if it has only corporate tie-ins.

    • all those that met its low-bandwidth technical guidelines would gain approval.

      Specifically, mobile websites should work in the absence of:

      JavaScript
      SVG images and WOFF font types
      iframes
      Video and large images
      Flash and Java applets

      Yes, yes, and yes. When I load a page, I don't want 90% of the data to consist of a pile of scripts that exists mostly to violate my privacy, that stupid new style of in-window "pop-up" frame, or generally almost every one of the "modern advances" in website design. Of course, I wouldn't trust FB to decide which content to allow or not, but it sure would be nice for websites to implement these upgrades.

    • by Jawnn ( 445279 )

      The library isn't restricted in what books it carries. Not having all of them is primarily a physical space and economic limitation -- if they could carry all of them they would.

      And the books they choose to carry is determined by criteria that is not simply a short list made by their corporate sponsors.

      This! Zuckerberg's comparison is at best, naive. More likely, it is deliberately disingenuous, attempting to obscure the glaring truth that Facebook aims to make money off of the thing. If you want to make a buck, that's fine. Just don't try to sell it with transparent bullshit like this, Mark.

    • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

      Also, more sophisticated libraries SHARE books. Certainly with the college level libraries Inter Library Loans are very common. You quite literally CAN have ANY book you want.

      Zuckerburg is quite obviously talking self-serving bullshit. It doesn't matter if he's ever been in a real library or not. He will simply act like it because it suits his agenda.

      Trying to compare his little walled garden to a hospital just makes him look like a giant robber baron jackass.

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        Trying to compare his little walled garden to a hospital just makes him look like a giant robber baron jackass.

        Well, except hospitals are paid for by taxpayers, so the "free healthcare" really isn't. (Though single payer healthcare has many benefits).

        You have to remember that "Free basics' is just that - completely free (beer) access to the walled garden. You don't pay a single cent for data in the walled garden. Sure you;re limited to what you can do, buy someone else is paying for it, and they get to say

        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          Some years back, I had an OC12 in my connection closet that fed my server room. I'd stumbled across an inbound call router on eBay. In the interest of learning new things, we had the inbound call router connected and firewalled from the local network. If you knew the number and had a user/password (we built it all with older equipment) then you could call in and have free dial-up internet access. I don't actually have any idea how many people used it because it was the techs that took care of it all and han

    • Exactly. Zuckerberg knows that in general libraries that offer any connectivity DO offer the entire Internet.
  • by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Monday December 28, 2015 @01:24PM (#51196047)
    resembles a car dealer's tag line in an advertisement. "get the car you deserve..."
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Well of course he's mad. This was the bottom floor to begin tracking and monetizing new people. Facebook, and subsequently its stock price, can't grow much larger without fresh product to sell.

  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Monday December 28, 2015 @01:24PM (#51196055)

    When you control the internet you control information.

  • by buchner.johannes ( 1139593 ) on Monday December 28, 2015 @01:26PM (#51196073) Homepage Journal

    Just do something that is company-independent. For example provide free internet for everyone at 56k speed. Or provide web-only (not internet).

    But preference of one companies' service (Wikipedia, I am also looking at you) is destroying equal opportunity for the next Google/Wikipedia/Facebook.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    So if free internet is a basic right... then why not make it public and transparent? Why should they have to go through Facebook and all it's tracking and advertisements to get it?

  • Bad comparison (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dpidcoe ( 2606549 ) on Monday December 28, 2015 @01:29PM (#51196109)

    We have collections of free basic books. They're called libraries. They don't contain every book, but they still provide a world of good.

    What Zuckerberg apparently fails to realize is that libraries don't see their users as a product, and generally don't have a vested interest in keeping their users away from the local bookstore and other non-library sanctioned locations. Because users are facebooks product, it creates a massive conflict of interest.

    • What Zuckerberg apparently fails to realize is that libraries don't see their users as a product, and generally don't have a vested interest in keeping their users away from the local bookstore and other non-library sanctioned locations.

      "...fails to realize..."? No, he's just failing to acknowledge such differences, because they would be detrimental to Facebook's business model if too many people thought too much about what he's really doing.

      Next thing you'll be claiming that a used-car salesman doesn't actually " realize" that he's making a major profit off some clunker if you buy it at his price, or that the diet pill guy doesn't "realize" that the pills don't really work, or that the TV evangelist doesn't "realize" that by sending hi

  • Free what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Monday December 28, 2015 @01:33PM (#51196165)

    We have free basic healthcare.

    Uh, in the US? Since when? Unless you mean being poor/uninsured and having hospital ERs pass the cost along to others. Perhaps rich white dudes, like Zuckerberg, and I have different definitions of the word "free".

    • "Free". He doesn't understand the meaning of the word that he thinks he does. In reality, health and education is, at best, subsidized labor of others; and even then it's abused to the point of being organized theft of said labor.

      Zuckerberg is a disgrace (among meany reason) for bastardizing the meaning of words.

    • Uh, in the US? Since when? Unless you mean being poor/uninsured and having hospital ERs pass the cost along to others. Perhaps rich white dudes, like Zuckerberg, and I have different definitions of the word "free".

      So yes, we do have 'free basic healthcare' by your own words.

      How do you think 'free health care' is paid for in other countries? Do you think those people don't get paid or do you think they just pay it in taxes ... kind of like you pay it in taxes (insurance) in the US. So yes, we pay for our Free Basic Healthcare, which is EXACTLY what those ER visits are.

      Do you understand anything at all about how the world works? You seem to think other countries give 'free and universal' health care ... which you se

      • Actually, I understand all your points. But in the US hospitals are required to treat everyone regardless of their ability to pay - which is a good thing - but some people w/o access to primary care often use the ER for all kinds of medical needs and unpaid bills get passed along as higher fees to those that can pay and/or have insurance (not paid by taxes, which would be spread across the entire population).

        I don't have any sense of entitlement, but would like those that can pay and/or afford insurance

      • Uh, in the US? Since when? Unless you mean being poor/uninsured and having hospital ERs pass the cost along to others. Perhaps rich white dudes, like Zuckerberg, and I have different definitions of the word "free".

        So yes, we do have 'free basic healthcare' by your own words.

        Only if you consider the ER preventing you from dying at that particular moment to be "health care".

    • Really. This racist and sexist comment is (Score:3, Insightful). Why is race and sex even mentioned here?
      • Really. This racist and sexist comment is (Score:3, Insightful). Why is race and sex even mentioned here?

        Actually, I'm also white, male and financially independent. I used the phrase "rich, white dude" to imply "out of touch with the reality of the masses" - as it seems to generally apply. Sorry for any confusion, though the chip on your shoulder seems a little too big...

    • If you're poor, you can get medicaid for free in the US.
      • by Kohath ( 38547 )

        But nevermind the facts. They can't divide people using mere facts. They want the groups to hate each other, so they can exercise power by leading one group against the other. Facts lack the needed drama to encourage otherwise satisfied and peaceful people to want to fight their neighbors.

        So shut up about how poor people get Medicaid for free. The poor don't get perfectly equal treatment (in exchange for the nothing that they offer in return). That's what matters. That's why one group should hate the o

    • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

      > Uh, in the US? Since when?

      Since the 60s actually.

      The funny thing about liberal bleeding hearts is that they all seem to be totally clueless and have no actual real experience with being poor. They just read nonsense written by some other clueless liberal crusader and take all of their propaganda at face value.

      Clueless idiots in general abuse Emergency Rooms. This includes employed middle class people that get out of the transaction with nothing more than a $100 copay. This all stems from the delusion t

  • by cerberusti ( 239266 ) on Monday December 28, 2015 @01:36PM (#51196195)

    If his motivations are entirely philanthropic in nature, there is an easy solution to their concerns:

    Remove Facebook from the free list, and let the government decide what qualifies for the plan.

    • Or save everyone a lot of time and trouble and just decide how much data, how fast, is "Free Basics" and let those little users decide for themselves what counts as the best use of what they have available.

      In practice, I suspect that 'the web' as designed for people with terrible phones and very, very, limited bandwidth is going to be a specialized subset; you just can't get away with streaming-video-ads and multiple megabytes of random 3rd party embeds under those conditions; but it can be a specialized
      • That would certainly save a lot of effort, and I doubt anyone would object to that.

        This is more like giving out free candy if you get into the car than working a soup kitchen.

    • Facebook vs the Indian government on the topic of censorship?

        In any other scenario I would be right there with you but sorry mate but I'm going to side with Facebook on this one.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    First of all I have to deal with this beauty: "Public hospitals don't offer every treatment, but they still save lives." Maybe that's true in the USA where Zuckerberg is from, but it's definitely not true in a lot of other countries (even in some poorer ones!). I offer this as just one example of how Zuckerberg is casually trying to dodge the criticisms rather than confront them head-on. He offers slightly off-topic truisms, and then steps back to see if anyone noticed that the topic of conversation has m

  • That a library can request a book form anywhere in the world. Sure, it is still technically a limited supply, but a library is not nearly as limited as a college drop out thinks.
  • I think at this point Zuckerberg seems like he has developed some form of a messiah complex, in which he believes he has a moral or divine responsibility to be the agent in delivering good to the planet. The fact that he's blatantly comparing his own company's initiatives to a publicly funded library is indicative of that, especially considering Facebook et al stands to profit from this little venture.
    • by Etcetera ( 14711 )

      I think at this point dipshit #Solutionist Millennials seem like they have developed some form of a messiah complex, in which they believe they have a moral or divine responsibility to be the agent in delivering good to the planet.

      FTFY.

  • There is no doubt that informational and education resources included with free basics are beneficial and even health/life saving to someone unable to afford a pay service. Net neutrality/anticompetitive concerns are also valid, but they are a 1st world problem. We have to solve them in due time, but not the expense of folks getting connected to their families and the world by someone who is willing to pay for it now.

    Ad supported Internet has its own share of problems, including journalistic integrity. But

    • What they are offering is not internet access, it is a place in his walled garden (or maybe fenced pasture is better). Wikipedia and such are the sugar that he was hoping would help them swallow the bitter facebook medicine.

      There are a lot of secondary effects to allowing something like this, from crushing any local competition with facebook before it begins, to letting them choose and price what it takes to reach the populace. If he is only going for the betterment of everyone involved, he can straight u

      • by iamacat ( 583406 )

        From what I understand, Mark Zuckerberg does intend to donate most of his personal money. As far as Facebook's money and labor of its employees, there obviously has to be something for the company to make a massive investment worthwhile. This does not make access to Wikipedia any less valuable to someone who would otherwise remain uneducated and access to Facebook itself is a benefit to someone who would otherwise not get to see family photos. Local competition will have much more luck once some folks teach

        • Hello moron. He is NOT donating anything money period. HIS money is doing to an LLC. It is not a charitable organization. You can fuck off now.
    • by Kohath ( 38547 )

      But no sane person would give up access to all the services until something perfect is created.

      "It's not perfect, so let's not do it at all" is the most common Slashdot argument against anything.

      Try to understand: Free, ad-supported, limited-Internet service is bad. Let them eat cake.

  • what it sounds like you are planning is a controlled infrastructure. Just use the existing infrastructure and put up limited availability sites. But if you want to build out your own CompuServe and/or AOL service you are going to be bashed if you do so leveraging your Facebook service to do it. Or maybe you should create your own religion like L Ron Hubbard did and control those who come to you.

    But do not try to take advantage of persons in certain socio economic situations pretending to be their saviour.
  • Independent board (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fluffernutter ( 1411889 ) on Monday December 28, 2015 @03:12PM (#51196895)
    What Zuckerberg needs to do is appoint an independent board to determine who gets into this. The board should have the mandate to provide access to as much balanced and impartial information as possible, period. The only economic interest in this mandate should be to stay within the budget they are granted.

    Aligning a service like tihs with the goals and agenda of any private organization is dangerous indeed. Then it is no longer altruistic and I fail to see how it can ever be good for the people.
  • > We have free basic healthcare

    Communist. We don't want things like health and security here in the U.S..
    Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?

    • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

      Of course not. The U.S. all about growth and opportunity. It's not some stale old country that's homogeneous and stable. It's not a place that pants for newcomers (or anyone else with ambition).

  • by XxtraLarGe ( 551297 ) on Monday December 28, 2015 @03:46PM (#51197093) Journal
    So Facebook is offering FREE, limited internet to poor people in third world countries. What are the critics of this plan offering to poor people in third world countries? Nothing. Some people like to complain for the sake of complaining.
  • One problem with the discussion that is occurring online is that _we_ all have Internet access. 80%+ of Indians don't. Ask them whether imperfect Internet access is better than none. The answers you get will likely be quite different...

  • "In essence, Facebook is claiming that since people quickly move on from Free Basics, it's less of a threat as a restricted replacement to the neutral Internet, and is more of a stepping stone to it."

    So.... it's like pot (if you believe government claims about it being a gateway drug)

  • One notable difference is, with a library, a publisher isn't going to send every book it has to the library for free, since that would impact its bottom line. Free books do not constitute advertising for the books given away, since the people who get them no longer need to buy the book, they just got to read it for free.
  • is "would the recipients of 'free basics' be better off with 'free basics'?" If they would be better off, then I don't see the problem. I'm not a fan of Zuckerburg (or twitter), but he's offering something of value. It may not be the value you'd like to see him offer, but unless someone else if offering something better, good on Zuck. "Half a steak is better than none."
  • You misanthropic toady. No one is buying your bullshit. Do the world a favor and recede into the weeds.

The possession of a book becomes a substitute for reading it. -- Anthony Burgess

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