Facebook’s Free Basics Trai submission Runs Into Hot Water
Various Facebook users on Friday reported that they had been “signed up” as supporters of Facebook’s Free Basics service against their will. Multiple users reported being automatically signed up when they scrolled down the page using which one can send a template email to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) in support of Free Basics, a Facebook program which provides certain internet services for free. Even as a strong verbal volley ensued, Facebook issued a formal statement saying no one was being signed up against their will.
“Got conned into signing the #FreeBasics petition on FB. DON’T “SCROLL DOWN TO LEARN MORE”! Signs you up immediately!” tweeted@ accidenteshwari, along with a mobile phone screenshot of the prompt page. “OKay… FB just listed an uncle’s account as having signed up to support Free Basics. He passed away two years ago,” wrote@grondmaster on Twitter. In an official statement reacting to these user reports, Facebook said: “People are not being auto enrolled. To show support for Free Basics people are required to click ‘send email’ before their submission is made. There is a clear action required.” At the time of going to press it wasn’t yet known if this was a result of a programming bug.
The letter to Trai in support of Free Basics says, “I support digital equality for India. Free Basics provides free access to essential Internet services, such as communication, education, healthcare, employment, farming information and more. It helps those who can’t afford to pay for data, or who need a little help with getting started online. And it’s open to all people, developers and mobile networks. With 1 billion Indian people not yet connected, shutting down Free Basics would hurt our country’s most vulnerable people. I support Free Basics and digital equality for India. Thank you.”