The Wikimedia Foundation, an US-based non-profit organisation which owns and operates Wikipedia and other free sites, has also distanced itself from the programme.
The Foundation wrote a blog post clarifying that though Wikipedia and other sites were included under the Free Basics programme, the Foundation had struck no deal with Facebook regarding the same.
“Facebook’s Free Basics includes Wikipedia as one of its services, but we wish to be clear that neither Wikipedia nor the Wikimedia Foundation are partners of Free Basics. Wikipedia is included in the Free Basics package through our free license. In line with our open policies, anyone can use and distribute Wikipedia content without formal permission,” Adele Vrana, head of strategic partnerships, global emerging markets and Smriti Gupta, regional manager, strategic partnerships, Asia of the Wikimedia Foundation wrote in the blog post.
The Foundation also said that it itself is using a zero-rated plan, called Wikipedia Zero partnerships, to garner more mobile traffic to Wikipedia and other sites. It justified the move by saying that the zero-rated approach removes the barrier of cost for those wishing to read, learn and contribute to Wikipedia.
The foundation also listed out principles of its zero-rated service. “One of the first principle is that there will be no collection of personal information and carriers will receive the IP addresses of sites that will be zero-rated so that they can identify Wikipedia Zero traffic,” Vrana and Gupta said adding that Wikipedia Zero does not enable carriers to collect or receive personal information about Wikimedia users.
Other principles include no compromise of experience and notices to users if they leave the zero-rated service. Also, the Foundation clarified that there would be no shift of editorial control.
“Wikipedia articles and other Wikimedia content are community curated and will remain that way. Zero-rating agreements do not shift editorial considerations, responsibilities, or policies. In fact, partnerships are meant to extend access to local Wikimedia volunteers and chapters around the world and aid in their community work,” Vrana and Gupta said adding that the Wikimedia Foundation will not pay carriers to zero-rate access to the Wikimedia sites and will not receive payments from carriers through Wikipedia Zero.
Wikimedia also clarified that Wikipedia Zero cannot be sold through limited service bundles and no exclusive rights will be given to carriers or telecom service providers.
Currently, more than 600 million people in 64 countries can read, edit, and contribute to Wikipedia through Wikipedia Zero partnerships.
Facebook’s Free Basics, a programme under the Internet.org initiative, that aims to provide internet to most people in the country has continuously faced flak and ire since the programme’s launch here. Although Facebook is still fighting the country’s telecom watchdog, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), to get Free Basics to run in the country, it has continuously lost partners and the TRAI itself has suspended the service citing issues of net neutrality.
Facebook was also slammed because of a campaign -- ‘Save Free Basics’ -- it ran in the country with a set format to gather people supporting its Free Basics programme in the country.