Facebook could ruin policy making in India: TRAI

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jan 20, 2016 14:20 IST
TRAI questioned if the points in the consultation paper were conveyed clearly before replies were sent. (Free Basics)

Facebook has tried every trick in its bag to get Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to favour Free Basics on the consultation paper on differential pricing. They heard back from TRAI and went back and forth with replies concerning various issues regarding the replies it received.

According to the letter published by TRAI, the conversation was between Ankhi Das, Director Public Policy, India, South and Central Asia, Facebook and K V Sebastian, Joint Advisor, TRAI. The letter explained that,“self-appointed spokesman ships on behalf of those who have sent responses to TRAI using your[Facebook and Free Basics] platform,” is of a concern.

TRAI also questioned if the points in the consultation paper were conveyed clearly before replies were sent. Also adding that, “your[Facebook’s] 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.”

Facebook has reportedly spent tops of Rs 300 crore on Free Basics ads in India besides online pleas on the social network to get users to send replies to TRAI in favours Free Basics. As a result, TRAI ended up with 2.4 million responses on the issue while Facebook claims it sent over 11 million.

Facebook put the blame on TRAI stating that, “on December 17 at 5.51.53 GMT, an individual with access to the TRAI email account designated to accept comments took action that blocked Facebook from delivering any additional email to that address.” To which TRAI responded that,“TRAI should have been informed immediately for appropriate steps to be taken. In fact, a similar instance of user complaint regarding the non-functioning of an email address during the response period for this Consultation Paper was brought to the notice of TRAI by individual stakeholders and the situation was immediately rectified. It is surprising that it took over 25 days for you to inform TRAI of this.”

By the end of the series of letters exchanged, TRAI said, it doesn’t consider “By clicking Send Email, you agree to let Facebook send your name and this e-mail to the TRAI,” allowance by the user to let Facebook speak on their behalf.

However, TRAI did reassure that they would take the responses including the comments and counter comments submitted by Facebook on behalf of others into account.

Letter to Facebook from Indian Regulators by Nitasha Tiku

(With inputs from PTI)

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