Let me start first by stating that I am all for net-neutrality and completely against internet.org/freebasics or any such zero rating plan.
Ever since yesterday, a lot of posts have been circulating warning people about not changing their DP as it would mean support for internet.org. The basis of this, as has been claimed, is that the source code of the site mentions ‘_internetOrgProfilePicture__prideAvatar’ in one of the hundreds of lines of code. It has been alleged by some that Facebook is keeping count of the people changing the profile pic using that line of code and plans to use it to say that X% of people are supporting internet.org.
I find the reason given here really strange and bordering on paranoia. First of all the line mentioned here, in technical terms, is a html div class name. Now such names are meant to be reusable and are really dependent on the developer responsible for the development of the site. There could be multiple reasons why the developer chose such a name. Many times when writing code, we name things based on the purpose for which they are created only to find that they can be used in other cases as well. Maybe thats what has happened. Maybe it was just a class name meant for some internet.org purpose and the developer just used it without renaming it. Or maybe the developer was working on some internet.org project and was then asked to work on the Digital India campaign and he just named a class in a hurry with what was on his mind right then. I do believe that whoever it was deserves a benefit of doubt.
But whatever may be the reason, I find it hard to digest that Facebook would try to use a div class name to count people who are changing their profile pic. There are a hundred different better ways to do that. Also please remember, that the entire source code belongs to Facebook. Why would they go the extra mile to create a special ‘Support Digital India’ page just to be able to add that line of code. They could as easily embed it in all of our profiles! It just doesn’t make any sense to me.
Also I find it hard to believe that Facebook can actually pass off changing of a DP as support for internet.org. I mean what would they say to our govt? That x number of people support internet.org because we found a div class name on the page that we ourselves have created especially to support ‘Digital India’ ? That sounds so bizarre. And if my govt is so stupid to believe that, then I guess I would have to vote elsewhere next time.
‘Digital India’ is a beautiful campaign and a much needed one in India. And I whole heartedly support it. But that in no way means that I am against net-neutrality. I have changed my DP only and only in support of this campaign. I don’t know what difference it will make but at the least I get to have a DP wrapped in my tricolour. That’s good enough for me.
I do understand that Mark Zuckerberg has a business to run and he would push for internet.org in India. For him, participation in Digital India is trying to find a foot in the door for internet.org. He has to link the two. But I don’t have to. I have the luxury of being able to differentiate between the two and support one but not the other. And that is why, when I changed my DP, I knew what I was doing.
We need to fight for net-neutrality, but lets fight it on logic and sound rationale. Lets not start getting paranoid. This stuff can only lead to in-fighting and insecurity. We need to stand united because Facebook won’t back off for sure. We have all seen how it has intensified its advertising campaigns. This is probably going to increase over time. We have to guard against it. We have to protest against it. Lets spread the message around. But lets do it without causing any confusion. Lets do it without hurting a campaign that is much needed in India. Lets give ‘Digital India’ as big a thumbs-up as possible and give internet.org as big a thumbs-down as possible.