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Net Neutrality: Decide if you want free Whatsapp, Hike, Hangout or not

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By Shilpika Srivastava

A lot is going on over the issue of net neutrality, and the growing resistance to it by Internet users.

But, have you ever really thought why the world, especially the Indians are raising a ruckus over it?

Maybe you simply allowed the issue to take a back seat in your mind, and started to watch that funny cat video on You Tube. But, do you know you might just not be able to freely and fully ‘enjoy’ the Internet, and watch that funny cat videos too, from the coming April 24?

So people, kindly lend me your eyes and minds just for a few moments, so that I can explain the sensitivity of the issue, how India’s telecom regulators are trying hard to hoodwink you. Yes, your world might just change, in twelve days!

What exactly is Net Neutrality?

According to Wikipedia, Net Neutrality is the principle that Internet Service Providers and government should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, website, mobile application or mode of communication.

What’s the fight for?

Sometime back the telecom companies enjoyed a profitable position in the market, fetched huge revenues during a period when the mobile users in India touched a number of 800 million people. This was the time when they largely focused on selling voice minutes, but what they really did was that they used Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) to connect the users with other telcos. In simple terms, they just transferred the calls through Internet.  And, its no rocket science to understand the difference of the cost between VOIP and the traditional voice calls.

Recently, what scared the telecom companies to the core was the easy accessibility to message or call someone provided by the platforms, like Whatsapp, Hangout, Hike and so on, and that too at the cost of Internet prices.

How it all started?

The argument over Net Neutrality picked up the hype when the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) lost its case against Comcast in the US Supreme Court in 2010. In India, a telecom giant, Airtel, planned to charge higher tariffs for phone calls (or VOIP) made through Skype or Viber on its network through Internet. This clearly breaches the principle of ‘Net Neutrality.’

No doubt, it attracted an uproar among the users that forced Airtel to withdraw the plan.

If this, happens in India, then you will have to pay for each site you visit. It will be the carrier who will have full control on your activities online. They want that ‘right’ to charge whatever they want.

For an example, Airtel may allow you to use Hike absolutely free as it is their own product, but on the other hand, they might charge you a bomb  when you share your jokes on Whatsapp.

You might not just believe that Reliance has already gone a step further with Internet.org. You can use Bing absolutely free, but have to pay when you ‘Google’ something. You have the right to share your thoughts on Facebook for fee, but not on Twitter.

Tell’em that #IndiaWantsNetNeutrality 

TRAI has framed 20 questions regarding Net Neutrality seeking answers from public and telcos based on which TRAI will take its decision. The questions can be found on pages 113 to 116 of the official consultation paper at TRAI Consultation. File your answers via an email to advqos@trai.gov.in by 24 April, 2015 (read ASAP).

If you find answering tricky, then simply sign this petition here.

This is a call to arms, a time to set your foot down and say, NO. Because, if we don’t act now, we may lose our freedom to ‘enjoy’ Internet in just 12 days.

 

Next Story

The Solution By WhatsApp Is Not Enough To Stop The Spread of Fake News

WhatsApp is running an educational campaign against fake news on newspaper and radio, and not on its own messaging platform through which lies actually spread.

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WhatsApp is running an educational campaign against fake news on newspaper and radio, and not on its own messaging platform through which lies actually spread. Pixabay

Narrating the impact of fake news and propaganda disseminated through WhatsApp, election consultant Shivam Shankar Singh in his new book, says the solutions proposed by the platform to prevent rumour mongering seem inadequate.

In “How To Win An Indian Election”, Singh who managed BJP’s assembly poll campaigns in Manipur and Tripura says messages containing the words “if true” and “forwarded as received” do little to make the recipients question their authenticity.

“WhatsApp is running an educational campaign against fake news on newspaper and radio, and not on its own messaging platform through which lies actually spread,” he says.

“Such campaigns are unlikely to reach the audience that is the most vulnerable to WhatsApp forwards,” says Singh who entered the field of political consultancy with Prashant Kishor’s team at the Indian Political Action Committee.

He also says restricting the number of groups that a person can forward a message to is also unlikely to be effective because most end recipients don’t have too many accounts to forward the messages to.

“They usually just forward it to their family and friends, and can easily copy-paste the content. These users aren’t forwarding it out of malicious intent; they’re doing it because they believe it to be true and they want the information to reach a larger audience so that people can be informed,” he says.

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He also says restricting the number of groups that a person can forward a message to is also unlikely to be effective because most end recipients don’t have too many accounts to forward the messages to. Pixabay
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“WhatsApp is running an educational campaign against fake news on newspaper and radio, and not on its own messaging platform through which lies actually spread,” he says.  Pixabay

To establish his point, the author shares the example of right-wing WhatsApp groups that consist of people who truly believe that Muslims are bad for India and that they harbour anti-national sentiments.

“I’ve interacted with several such BJP supporters over the years. Ask them if they hate Muslims and many of them would candidly say ‘yes’, and ask them if they think Muslims aren’t as loyal to the country as Hindus, almost all would say ‘yes’,” he notes in the book published by Penguin Random House India.

Singh contends that such prejudices mean when people who already mistrust Muslims receive WhatsApp forwards about Muslims shouting pro-Pakistan slogans, murdering people, smuggling cattle, raping women and committing crime, they will probably believe them without any kind of verification.

“Fake news is usually intermixed with real news and sent to people over months to influence their opinion,” says Singh maintaining “politics at its core is the art of influencing public opinion”.

According to Singh’s assertions in the book, winning elections in India requires a political party or a politician to exercise some control over public opinion.

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He says such control is also required after winning an election, because “reforming a system requires a favourable public opinion, which can only be garnered through constant messaging and propaganda”.

He says social media, in the recent years, has emerged as one of the most effective tools in shaping public discourse and influencing what people talk about. (IANS)