A View from the Cheap Seats: Internet and Colonialism
25 Pages Posted: 1 Feb 2017
Date Written: December 2016
Facebook launched Free Basics in India in 2015, an initiative promoting free mobile access to some applications and services in the country. A few months later, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) banned this and other zero rating programs after a public consultation that instigated intense opinions. Soon after the ban, Facebook board member and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen wrote on his Twitter: "Anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades. Why stop now?".
This paper reacts to Andreessen question by trying to identify, through the lens of postcolonial criticism, relations of power, domination and exploration in the digital environment. Thus, it describes how the West may deploy an Internet model for the global periphery promoting a new form of colonialism: the digital one.
The paper is organized in three sections. First, it introduces what is meant by "digital colonialism". Second, the paper focus on two topics that might serve as an example of a colonialism revisited: access barriers and governance models. Specifically, it emphasizes the establishment of Western programs of free Internet access designed to serve poor countries, focusing on Facebook's Free Basics establishment in India. It also addresses centralized Western policies, analyzing the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Finally, the paper encourages further development on the matter.
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