Why You Should Think Before Using Facebook’s Indian Flag Photo
Mark Zuckerberg recently changed his Facebook display picture to one which has an over-lay of the Indian flag. This was done following his Town Hall meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Silicon Valley this week. Zuckerberg unequivocally expressed his support for the Digital India campaign of the country.
Prime Minister Modi soon followed league and changed his display picture on Facebook as well. Facebook also introduced a feature which allowed users everywhere to make the tri-colour part of their display pictures. Post this, people, as we know them to be, switched their profile pictures left and right and centre. All of a sudden, we woke up to find unanimous, enthusiastic support for Digital India. Utopia, could it be?
Maybe not. A lot of netizens took to social media platforms to express their dismay at the new feature, which was allegedly directly connected with Facebook’s Internet.org. It was assumed that these pictures had a source code which would automatically link them to Internet.org, inadvertently making them support the initiative.
Now the idea of thousands and millions being included within the ambit of the virtual world sounds brilliant and one everyone is up for. But before that, those endorsing this initiative as part of Digital India campaign need to understand all that it entails.
Internet.org refers to a collaboration between Facebook and six other companies, namely, Samsung, Qualcomm, Nokia, Ericsson, MediaTek and Opera Software. The aim of this collaboration is to bring easily accessible internet to developing countries, especially in remote rural areas. However since it includes only selected services and online operators, it is seen not only as a direct threat to net neutrality but also as rampant publicizing of Facebook. It would be a single company, or a small group of them, which would decide what services are made available and which ones are excluded, a right earlier extended only to the user of the internet, not the service providers.
However, earlier today, an official statement was made by Facebook which reads as follows:
“There is absolutely no connection between updating your profile picture for digital India and registering support for Internet.org. An engineer mistakenly used the words “Internet.org profile picture” as a shorthand name he chose for part of the code. But this product in no way connects to or registers support for Internet.org. We are changing the code today to eliminate any confusion.”
And so, the hue and cry gradually died. But the proposition still remains -before you jump at the idea of a tri-coloured display picture, try remembering the things it implies. Granted such a picture does not necessarily mean support for Internet.org, yet the issue of separating Digital India from Internet.org remains just as relevant. Nothing would be better on the tech front than to have a country where internet is available in every household. But any policy that endangers net neutrality, and therefore, the freedom of expression and to make choices in the virtual space, needs to be reconsidered.