Is There Such a Thing as Facebook Colonialism?
In a row over how to bring Internet access to India's poorest, Facebook almost sounds colonial.
Facebook and India disagree on how to bring the Internet to India’s poorest citizens. This week, India banned certain free mobile data services, which includes Facebook’s Free Basics program. Known as zero-data programs, regulators argued that services like Free Basics should not be allowed to “shape the users’ Internet experience” by providing free access only to certain services. That is, Free Basics violates the concept of net neutrality and therefore should be prohibited.
Free Basics provides free text-only access to the Internet. It is offered in 38 countries and reaches a billion people across Asia, Africa, and Latin America. India’s prohibition of the service reflects a growing concern by Indian regulators that it causes Indian citizens to prefer some Internet services, like Facebook, over others. “What we want is for everyone in the world to get access to the same Internet,” Nikhil Pahwa of Indian news site MediaNama told The New York Times. “The Internet is not just a collection of 130 websites. We don’t want to be forced to make a choice between access and net neutrality.”
Launched last year through Reliance Communications, a local Indian mobile phone provider, Free Basics “makes the Internet accessible to more people by providing them access to a range of free basic services like news, maternal health, travel, local jobs, sports, communication, and local government information.” It is a part of Facebook’s Internet.org initiative.
In response to India’s ban, Mark Zuckerberg posted to his personal Facebook page on Monday. “Connecting India is an important goal we won’t give up on, because more than a billion people in India don’t have access to the Internet,” he wrote. “We know that connecting them can help lift people out of poverty, create millions of jobs and spread education opportunities. We care about these people, and that’s why we’re so committed to connecting them.”
Marc Andreessen, Facebook board member and well-known Silicon Valley venture capitalist, waded into the geopolitics of this issue as well, to Zuckerberg’s chagrin. Andreessen, in defending Facebook’s actions in India, claimed on Twitter that Indian authorities were shortsighted. In response, some Twitter users argued that Facebook’s foray into India reflected a “colonial” approach to the matter. Andreessen — in a tweet that has since been deleted — wrote, “Anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades. Why stop now?”
You can imagine how well that went over. Facebook quickly responded. “We strongly reject the sentiments expressed by Marc Andreessen last night regarding India,” Facebook said in a statement. Zuckerberg also reacted. “I found the comments deeply upsetting, and they do not represent the way Facebook or I think at all,” he wrote. Andreessen then issued an apology.
What’s interesting about the debate is the degree to which the net neutrality controversy reflects itself in India’s understandable sensitivity to colonialism. I’m not sure Zuckerberg’s attempt to assuage the concerns of the Indian government hits the mark.
“India has been personally important to me and Facebook. Early on in my thinking about our mission, I traveled to India and was inspired by the humanity, spirit, and values of the people. It solidified my understanding that when all people have the power to share their experiences, the entire world will make progress,” he wrote Wednesday. “As our community in India has grown, I've gained a deeper appreciation for the need to understand India's history and culture. I've been inspired by how much progress India has made in building a strong nation and the largest democracy in the world, and I look forward to strengthening my connection to the country.”
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According to TwoFold CEO Alison McMahon, a leader who doesn't care (or can't pretend to care) about his or her employees isn't much of a leader at all.
Why do people quit their jobs? Surely, there are a ton of factors: money, hours, location, lack of interest, etc. For Alison McMahon, an HR specialist and the CEO of TwoFold, the biggest reason employees jump ship is that they're tired of working for lousy bosses.
By and large, she says, people are willing to put up with certain negatives as long as they enjoy who they're working for. When that's just not the case, there's no reason to stick around:
Nine times out of ten, when an employee says they're leaving for more money, it's simply not true. It's just too uncomfortable to tell the truth.
Whether that's true is certainly debatable, though it's not a stretch to say that an inconsiderate and/or incompetent boss isn't much of a leader. If you run an organization or company, your values and actions need to guide and inspire your team. When you fail to do that, you set the table for poor productivity and turnover.
McMahon offers a few suggestions for those who want to hone their leadership abilities, though it seems that these things are more innate qualities than acquired skills. For example, actually caring about your workers or not depending wholly on HR thinking they can do your job for you.
It's the nature of promotions that, inevitably, a good employee without leadership skills will get thrust into a supervisory position. McMahon says this is a chronic problem that many organizations need to avoid, or at least make the time to properly evaluate and assist with the transition.
But since they often don't, they end up with uninspired workers. And uninspired workers who don't have a reason to stay won't stick around for long.
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