There is such a thing as too much freedom. If nothing was illegal, people would rob and kill each other, right? There’s no such thing as too much net neutrality, however. Unless you’re talking to the billionaire son of a dentist who’s trying to make every person on the planet sign up for his internet website.
Mark Zuckerberg wore a grey T-shirt and a distant gaze as he spoke to an audience at the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi on Wednesday. The 31-year-old was giving a sales pitch for Internet.org, the Facebook-led project to create a stripped-down, walled-off web for poor people. The free service aims to bring internet Facebook access to the vast majority of the world that’s not already posting status updates. In an attempt to explain how Internet.org doesn’t violate the principles of net neutrality, Zuck said something silly. The New York Times reports:
It is possible to take net neutrality “too far,” he said, adding: “If there’s a fisherman in the village who now has access to the Internet to sell some of his fish and provide for his family, no one gets hurt by that. That’s good.”
Let’s just ignore the crazy idea of selling fresh fish on the internet and focus on the first part of that. Is it actually possible to take net neutrality “too far?”
Net neutrality is the keystone of the free and open internet. The principle, as well as the regulations recently passed in the United States and (less aggressively) in Europe, prohibit network operators from discriminating against certain types of traffic. Internet.org has historically been pretty damn discriminatory since it only offers users access to certain Internet.org-approved services. This creates a so-called “Facebooknet” that stands to Balkanize the web and force people to connect with each other on Zuckerberg-designed networks.
It’s non-sensical when Zuckerberg claims that too much net neutrality is harmful, but it’s hardly surprising. When publishers in India started pulling their services from the Internet.org ecosystem earlier this year over net neutrality complaints, Zuck’s response was equal parts tone-deaf and hilarious. Preferential treatment was necessary to provide people with free internet, he said. And now, speaking in India where the controversy came to a head, the Facebook founder seems to be telling the public to get over it already.
Mark Zuckerberg is bad at net neutrality. That, or he just doesn’t like it. Either way, his is a dangerous and powerful opinion. It almost seems like we’d only access the internet through Facebook if Zuck got his way. But at least then we wouldn’t have to put up with this annoying net neutrality stuff. Who needs a free and open internet, anyway? [New York Times]
Image via AP