Journalist and author Evgeny Morozov doesn’t think very highly of Mark Zuckerberg’s plan to bring internet access to the two-thirds of the world’s population without it.
In a column published in The New York times, Morozov comes up with a bunch of unflattering adjectives for Zuckerberg’s Internet.org, calling it “venture humanitarianism” and “Facebook’s gateway drug.”‘
The problem, Morozov and other critics say, is that Zuck is positioning this as a humanitarian mission instead of a for-profit business expansion plan.
Three days ago, Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, announced the launch of the Internet.org app in Zambia, joining Internet.org’s work in the Philippines, Paraguay and Tanzania.
Internet.org is bringing a set of free internet apps to smartphone users in developing nations. The app introduced in Zambia included AccuWeather, Google search, Wikipedia, a local news and job searching app and, naturally, Facebook. Thirteen apps were bundled altogether.
Just last month, Zuckerberg penned a Wall Street Journal column saying that Internet.org will help with everything from reducing poverty to reducing child-mortality rates.
Although he’s publicly said he thinks Internet.org will help carriers generate profits, as people download apps where they will have to pay for the data, he hasn’t talked much about its impact on Facebook’s bottom line. Obviously, it will expand Facebook’s reach to new markets, and Facebook’s ability to sell ads.
Morozov, author of a couple of books including “The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom” is worried that it could also put app developers in a headlock.
Those who don’t join Facebook’s ecosystem could find their apps unpopular with two-thirds of the world, who will have to pay for data plans to use those apps. And people will then feel pressured to join Facebook if they want education apps, loan application apps, and so on.
“Facebook and its allies are for-profit companies, whose interests fundamentally diverge from those of everyday citizens,” Morozov writes.
Internet.org has faced critics before who aren’t buying it as a humanitarian mission either. Zuckerberg’s hero Bill Gates even said last year: “Hmm, which is more important, connectivity or malaria vaccine? If you think connectivity is the key thing, that’s great. I don’t.”
For his part, Zuckerberg points out that in the year since Internet.org launched, it has “already helped 3 million people access the Internet who had no access before.”
We reached out to Internet.org and Morozov for comment.
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