Facebook seems to have taken a leaf out of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s book.
Earlier this year, several people received calls from an unknown number. When they called back, they were sent text messages that they had been enrolled into the BJP, even thought they hadn’t actually signed up.
Something similar seems to have happened over the weekend to social media users who used atool created by Facebook to emblazoned their profile pictures with the tricolour in a gesture of support for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Digital India vision.
It started on Sunday night as Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg announced after a question-and-answer event with Modi in California that he had tinted his profile picture with the hues of the Indian flag to support the Indian prime minister’s digital programme. Zukerberg asked others to follow suit. The Indian prime minister did so immediately, and shortly after, thousands of other Indian Facebook users did the same.
But there were soon claims that uploading the distinctive picture could come to be interpreted as support for Facebook’s internet.org project in addition to Modi’s Digital India.
This allegation arose when some internet users looked at the source code of Facebook’s tool, which revealed that it was logging the entries of people changing their profile picture with tags related to Facebook’s contentious internet.org.
“While you might be updating your profile pic to (look cool) show your support towards Digital India, Facebook is counting it as a support for Internet.org,” the website nextbigwhat.comexplained.
Facebook’s internet.org project has been hotly debated. Though the company claims it will open up the internet to people who can’t afford it, critics say that it will deny access to sites and services that aren’t a part of the platform.
The revelation of the source code was interpreted by social media users as a complete violation of an honest disclosure policy on Facebook’s part. Activists on social media urged users to resist from changing their profile pictures and think about what this could mean for the future of net neutrality –the idea that networks (such as MTNL or Airlet) that allow users to access to the internet should treat all traffic on the internet impartially, that they should be neutral. As Scroll.in has previously written, net neutrality means that “anyone attempting to go to any website anywhere on the internet should be free to do so”.
Sharp reactions were seen on Twitter, where many people voiced their concerns and targeted Facebook for “hijacking the Digital India campaign to promote its own venture”.