Telecom regulator TRAI has called Facebook’s high-pitched ‘Free Basics’ campaign a “crudely majoritarian and orchestrated opinion poll dangerous ramifications for policy making in India“.
The public rebuke by the regulator escalates the war of words between TRAI and the social media giant at a time when the latter has claimed widespread support for its controversial platform Free Basics.
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) disagrees with Facebook’s posturing that began as a response to its consultation paper on differential pricing for data services.
While Facebook has been drumming up support from its users for the Free Basics programme as part of its response to the consultation paper, Trai does not agree with the style, calling the exercise wholly misplaced,
“Your urging has the flavour of reducing this meaningful consultative exercise designed to produce informed decisions in a transparent manner into a crudely majoritarian and orchestrated opinion poll,“
K V Sebastian, a joint adviser with TRAI, said on Monday in response to a letter written by Facebook India’s director (public policy) Ankhi Das.
“Neither the spirit nor the letter of a consultative process warrants such an interpretation which, if accepted, has dangerous ramifications for policy making in India. Equally of concern is your self-appointed spokesmanship on behalf of those who have sent responses to Trai using your platform,” the regulator said,
Even expressing doubts about whether the social media company had taken permission from its users to make a representation on their behalf.
“It is noticed that you have not been authorized by your users to speak on behalf of them collectively. This does not, in our view, imply any consent on the part of the users to allow Facebook to speak on their behalf as you have done,” Trai said.
Facebook responded to TRAI’s letter on Wednesday evening, saying it had also asked its users to respond specifically to TRAI’s questions in the consultation paper, apart from the original exercise of asking them to just click on a template which says,
“By clicking send mail, you will agree to let Facebook send your name and this email to TRAI“.
Facebook and Trai have also been at loggerheads over the number of responses that were sent using the social media company’s platform. While Facebook has been claiming that over 11.7 million people submitted emailed comments to Trai in support of Free Basics, Trai has disputed this number and said it is much lower.
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