Saying that he’s trying to improve the lives of the world’s poorest people, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced an ambitious plan to bring internet access to 60 percent of the Earth’s population.
“What he didn’t announce is the naked Facebook self-interest fueling this plan — or his troubled track record as a do-gooder.
“Today, Facebook said it will work toward its internet access goal with makers of smartphone hardware — including Nokia, Qualcomm, and Samsung — trying to create cheaper smartphones, deploy and incentivize cheaper internet access, and slim down webpages.
“No dollar figures or specific technologies were detailed for the “internet.org” alliance, just platitudes about “giving all people around the world the power to connect” and a big headline-grabbing goal of bringing internet access to the 4.4 billion people who do not already have it.
“To promote internet.org, Facebook deployed a heavily edited John F. Kennedy speech to lend gravitas to an empty propaganda video. And Zuckerberg said this: “For almost 10 years, Facebook has been on a mission to make the world more open and connected… Connecting the world is one of the greatest challenges of our generation. This is just one small step toward achieving that goal.”
“We’re not complaining about Facebook trying to serve its own interests while simultaneously doing something good for the world. People understand, hopefully, that Facebook is a for-profit corporation whose top priority must be its own bottom line, and that Facebook can pursue revenue while also doing some good, helping people stay in touch with their relatives or improving third-world net access. Such win-wins are possible, and should be celebrated. The problem is that this isn’t enough for the company. It has to be solving “one of the greatest challenges of our generation,” with nary a mention of the big financial upside — and there is one, believe me, for Facebook. This is part of a broader pattern in which the company habitually acts like it’s more akin to a charity than a business.”