Facebook's "Free Basics" and colonialism: an argument in six devastating points

Though India's independent telcoms regulator has banned services like Facebook's "Free Basics" -- which bribed phone companies to exempt Facebook's chosen services from the carriers' punishing data-caps -- the debate rages on, as Free Basics has taken hold through many poor countries around the world.

One important critique of Free Basics is that it's a form of colonialism, something that some Free Basics advocates acknowledge. For example, investor Mark Andreessen criticized the opposition to Free Basics: "Anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades Why stop now?" (Andreesen later apologized and deleted the tweet).

Deepika Bahri, an English professor at Emory University who focuses on postcolonial studies, summed up the argument for Facebook as neocolonial in six cogent points:

1. ride in like the savior

2. bandy about words like equality, democracy, basic rights

3. mask the long-term profit motive (see 2 above)

4. justify the logic of partial dissemination as better than nothing

5. partner with local elites and vested interests

6. accuse the critics of ingratitude

Facebook and the New Colonialism
[Adrienne Lafrance/The Atlantic]

(via Memex 1.1)


(Image: Reliance-Internet.org Commercial)