After yesterday’s Facebook Townhall event where Modiji answered a few questions, Mark Zuckerberg and Narendra Modi both updated theri profile images to support Digital India. Subsequently, many people are visiting facebook.com/supportidigitalindia to update their profile pictures in support of Digital India. Some of you, who have background in software engineering, would like to open up the source code of the page and search for “internetOrg”. Even if you do not, please read on.
In the source code, you would find an oddly named class “_internetOrgProfilePicture__prideAvatar” as shown in the image below.
The internet.org class name in a page which is supposedly to “Support Digital India” is not coincidental. If some of you are following internet activists on Twitter (like @nixxin) who are fighting the battle of net neutrality, you’d know that for yesterday’s PR event, Facebook paid for business class tickets and accommodation for journalists from four major Indian media houses namely India Today, Indian Express, Hindu Businessline and Economic Times. The disclosure that they have been paid has been made at the bottom of 4 articles published in each one of the above four news outlets. Links to the articles are as follows:
Each one of the above four articles are a product of sponsored journalism. This phenomenon of corporates paying media houses to write in their favour is not new, and I’m not blaming media personnels who covered it, however the disclosure should have been put right at the start of the article so that the readers would have known that they’re reading an article whose costs have been covered by a corporate behemoth.
Be that as it may, along with journalists who had been paid for, also turned up our Prime Minister at an event to answer some inane, pre-determined questions.
Yes, I did say “PRE-DETERMINED”. Executive Director of CNET, Ian Sherr, who was covering this event wrote the following on Twitter:
Questions from the audience are predetermined. So thereâ€™s that. $FB #Modiberg.
(CNET is an American media website that publishes reviews, news, articles, blogs, podcasts and videos on technology and consumer electronics globally.)
Along with journalists, several other people were flown in for this PR event.
Siri Srinivas who works for Guardian and is based in New York had the following comment:
Ah Facebook, flies in woman (from delhi) to ask Indian prime minister (who lives in delhi) about Indian women in Menlo Park.
Ah Facebook, flies in woman (from delhi) to ask Indian prime minister (who lives in delhi) about Indian women in Menlo Park
— Siri Srinivas (@pjux) September 27, 2015
(Menlo Park, California is where the Facebook HQ is located)
The first question in the Facebook townhall went to Vir Kashyap. Surprise, Surprise. Vir Kashyap is the COO of Babajobs which is an internet.org partner.
So, the simple question is why would Facebook have journalists and participants flown in and accommodated for, arrange a pre-determined Q&A session for the Prime Minister, all at its own expense?
Answer is to sell a product. To sell internet.org. In the garb of Digital India. To millions of gullible masses in India. And our Prime Minister knew that he was a participant in this facade and gleefully allowed a Government of India initiative to be used as a platform for Mark Zuckberg’s salesmanship.