Mark Zuckerberg is learning the hard way that philanthropy is never as straight-forward as it seems.
Facebook’s crusade to bring basic free Internet to people in lower-income countries without web access reached India in February 2015. In a triumphant Facebook post, Zuckerberg announced that the initiative, Internet.org, had launched in India, “giving people in six Indian states access to free basic internet services for health, education, jobs and communication.”
Less than a year later, Internet.org hasn’t gone over as well as Zuckerberg had hoped. On Thursday, hundreds of people gathered at a Telecom Regulatory Authority of India forum in India’s capital to discuss whether the initiative should be shut down, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Advocates for net neutrality argue that the free service, which offers access to only some websites, is “poor internet for poor people,” forcing users to only access parts of the web that are in Facebook’s best interest.
Last month, in an op-ed for the Times of India, Zuckerberg defended the initiative, writing: “If we accept that everyone deserves access to the internet, then we must surely support free basic internet services…Who could possibly be against this?” He added that the Internet.org platform Free Basics allows any developer to create services for users.
The Indian telecom regulator is expected to make a verdict on the free Internet service by the end of the month.