Supporting Digital India is not supporting Internet.org: Facebook

By: | Published: September 29, 2015 5:50 PM

With Facebook's tri-colour profile picture tool to support Digital India project facing criticism of promoting its controversial Internet.org programme, the social media giant today said there was no connection between the two and that it will change the wrong code to eliminate any confusion.

FacebookWith Facebook’s tri-colour profile picture tool to support Digital India project facing criticism of promoting its controversial Internet.org programme, the social media giant today said there was no connection between the two and that it will change the wrong code to eliminate any confusion. (Photo: Reuters)

With Facebook’s tri-colour profile picture tool to support Digital India project facing criticism of promoting its controversial Internet.org programme, the social media giant today said there was no connection between the two and that it will change the wrong code to eliminate any confusion.

Ahead of his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg put up a profile picture emblazoned with the Indian tri-colour to show support for Modi’s Digital India initiative. Facebook also launched a tool to allow its users to change their profile pictures to support the Indian initiative.

However, a controversy brewed on social media with internet activists claiming that anyone changing their profile pictures using the tool was supporting Facebook’s Internet.org programme.

Blaming an engineer for the “mistake”, Facebook said the product in no way connects to or registers support for Internet.org.

“There is absolutely no connection between updating your profile picture for digital India and registering support for Internet.org,” Facebook said in a statement.

An engineer mistakingly used the words “Internet.org profile picture” as a shorthand name he chose for part of the code, it added.

“But this product in no way connects to or registers support for Internet.org. We are changing the code today to eliminate any confusion,” the statement said.

Facebook has continued to defend the initiative that offers free access to basic internet services to consumers. India has over eight lakh users under the Internet.org initiative.

Internet activists have criticised the Internet.org platform, which has recently been rebranded as Free Basics, to be in violation of the principle of net neutrality that is against any priority being accorded to an entity in internet traffic flow on account of payments to service providers like telecom companies.

In a recent interview, Zuckerberg said it is important to get the debate on net neutrality “right” in India as the country is home to the world’s largest population of the “unconnected”.

He added that the regulatory framework needs to protect net neutrality for consumers and also ensure that companies are allowed to work on new models for stepping up internet access.

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