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Internet.org Is Not Neutral, Not Secure, and Not the Internet

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Facebook's Internet.org project, which offers people from developing countries free mobile access to selected websites, has been pitched as a philanthropic initiative to connect two thirds of the world who don’t yet have Internet access. We completely agree that the global digital divide should be closed. However, we question whether this is the right way to do it. As we and others have noted, there's a real risk that the few websites that Facebook and its partners select for Internet.org (including, of course, Facebook itself) could end up becoming a ghetto for poor users instead of a stepping stone to the larger Internet.

Mark Zuckerberg's announcement of the expansion of the Internet.org platform earlier this month was aimed to address some of these criticisms. In a nutshell, the changes would allow any website operator to submit their site for inclusion in Internet.org, provided that it meets the program's guidelines. Those guidelines are neutral as to the subject matter of the site, but do impose certain technical limitations intended to ensure that sites do not overly burden the carrier's network, and that they will work on both inexpensive feature phones and modern smartphones.

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