Facebook opens to developers amid net neturality controversy

Facebook's, intended to get more people online in poor, rural areas, opened up to new websites and applications from developers today. But the service is controversial because it gives Facebook control over all data accessed by users.

'You're effectively disadvantaging other companies and broader usage of the web,' activist says

'It's not an equal internet if the majority of people can't participate,' says Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, addressing criticism that violates the principles of net neutrality. (Adnan Abidi/Reuters)

Facebook Inc opened up its platform to new websites and applications from developers on Monday, a move the social media giant said would boost efforts to get people online in low-income and rural areas in emerging markets.

However, the decision drew criticism from some online activists in India who expressed concern over Facebook's control over all data accessed on the service and said it violated the principles of an open web.

Access equals opportunity. Net neutrality should not prevent access.- Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook offers free access via mobile phones to pared-down web services, focused on job listings, agricultural information, healthcare and education, as well as Facebook's own social network and messaging services.

It has been launched in nine countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia, including India, bringing over 8 million people online, said Chris Daniels, vice president of product for, who was in New Delhi to speak with partners and operators.

The platform will be open to all developers who meet certain guidelines, including that they produce content that can be browsed on both basic mobile phones as well as smartphones and is accessible in limited bandwidth situations, Facebook said.

The U.S. company partnered with Reliance Communications to launch in India in February.

But a number of e-commerce firms and content developers pulled out of the service after activists claimed it violated principles of net neutrality — the concept that all websites on the internet are treated equally.

'Almost patronizing approach to the internet'

Nikhil Pahwa, volunteer with pro-net neutrality campaign group, said the service would cause a permanent shift in the way the internet works.

The project is part of a broader Facebook effort that also contemplates using satellites and other high-tech gear to deliver internet service to hundreds of millions of people living in regions too remote for conventional broadband networks. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

But Daniels said was open to mobile operators and involved no payments, either to or from the developers."Did we give unlimited free calls to people so that more people start making calls? So why this almost patronizing approach to the internet. You're effectively disadvantaging other companies and broader usage of the web," said Pahwa, who is also the founder of, a New Delhi-based digital media publication.

"The principles of neutrality must co-exist with programs that also encourage bringing people online," he told Reuters.

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said in a video post: "Access equals opportunity. Net neutrality should not prevent access. We need both, it's not an equal internet if the majority of people can't participate."


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?