Mark Zuckerberg’s Townhall Meeting Fails to Impress; Justification of Facebook’s Discriminatory Internet Access Is Laughable
When a startup founder having net worth of $38.6 billion, founder of a $201.6 billion worth Internet startup announces a townhall meeting in the capital city of world’s largest democracy, then it creates some buzz, some speculation. Excitement was clearly in the air, as Facebook invited selected participants and selected startup founders for this live meeting at IIT, Delhi campus.
Technological evangelists and digital entrepreneurs from India waited with baited breath to hear Mark answer their questions and remove their doubts regarding several controversial schemes and plans which Facebook has introduced in the last few years.
It was meant to project Facebook as the global savior, of being the company which can change everything.
But what actually happened was a damp squib of a public relation event, which honestly speaking, could have happened anywhere in the world and still couldn’t have changed anything.
Their justification of Free Basics (previously called Internet.org) was laughable to say the least. The questions which were asked by eager audience members too failed to warm up the event, as issues such Candy Crush requests and super-human powers were discussed, wasting the valuable & important opportunity which existed there.
Here are the ugly, bad and the good which came out from this townhall meeting:
The Ugly: Internet.org Program
The most sensible question of the day was about protests for Net Neutrality and Internet.org, and the answer to this question was laughable to say the least. Mark said, “Most pushing for net-neutrality already have access to Internet.”
One Reddit user aptly replied to this accusation on a thread:
“Most people pushing for higher standards of education already have education.
Most people pushing for better public toilets already have toilets.
Most people pushing for a better life have life.”
Those who are not able to arrange their meals for a day have certainly no powers to protest against the discrimination policies of a multi-billion dollar MNC; infact, it’s the responsibility of those who know what a free and fair Internet is, to stop MNCs from exploiting us.
Mark further said, “What we are trying to do, since the Internet is expensive and you can’t provide the whole internet for free; basic programs, anything that is basically test, low bandwidth would be free.”
We had earlier shared how Aircel is revolutionizing Internet access with no barrier entry for all, albeit at a low bandwidth. Here, Mark Zuckerberg is propagating a walled, discriminatory Internet access, and then justifying it by saying that providing free Internet for all!
Not only Aircel, but young Indian startups have invested chips which can provide low cost Internet for all, without any discrimination.
Either Mark hadn’t done much research into this issue, or assumed all Indians to be tech-illiterate and without any sense of business knowledge; no wonder he didn’t share that with more users on Internet.org, they can charge more dollars from the advertisers!
The Bad: Candy Crush Saga
It was announced earlier that Facebook has ‘Pre-selected’ some questions for this townhall meeting; and some questions would be asked from the live audience. We are really not sure that how and why this Candy Crush question was asked, but the seriousness of the whole session was diluted with it.
Mainstream media picked it up immediately, and it was suddenly the talk of the town.
Candy Crush is a nice game, with a huge following; but asking Mark how to block it’s requests during a townhall session was bad; and a wastage.
Another pointless question was : If super-human powers are bestowed to Mark, how will he change the world? Having created a $200 billion worth of company and personal assets of $34 billion is in itself super-human qualities!
Facebook has the capital to revolutionize everything ever imagined or done. But all Mark could answer was: “One of the amazing things would be if you could put on the headset and connect with someone in a differently other location and play ping-pong with that person. Or if could play ping pong in space or underwater, or anti-gravity. That is going to be pretty good.”
Maybe it was the kid within Mark which answered this question, who himself have forgotten, what powers he has right now.
The Good: Mark Zuckerberg’s Daughter
In between, Mark mentioned that he and his wife are expecting a baby girl, and this news was the best one among all the other announcements and answers. It created a personal touch, and we Indians were allowed to share a common joy, which should have been strictly personal with Mark and his family.
Another good reply was regarding the new AMBER alert system on Facebook, which can help find missing children; it automatically shares the images and details about the missing kids on other people’s timeline, thereby creating more awareness and buzz.
On the price wars, Mark was honest and blunt, when he targeted the telecom operators for high prices, and said, “It is really imp that we have regulations that prevent companies from doing things that hurt people. For example if an operator is charging you extra or is making you pay more, regulations is going to prevent that..”
Only if he can apply the same principles on the issue of Net Neutrality as well, and allow poor Indians to access the full web, instead of a walled gateway of Facebook’s version of Internet.
Overall, this townhall meeting was incomplete, ineffective, and posted more questions than answers. Maybe we expected lot more from Mark Zuckerberg.
Here is the full video of Mark’s townhall meeting in Delhi, which was conducted at IIT, Delhi