Dear Readers,

Yesterday, we
gave you the following practice topic for WAT – “Facebook Free Basics: Boon or Bane”. In this article, we will look
at the correct approach for an essay on this topic and will also cover some
important points which may be used in this essay.

Guidelines – How to Approach this Question

Like many WAT topics, this is
also an opinion-centric question that requires backing by relevant facts.

Whatever your stand is, try not
to be very extreme because that is not a sign of maturity (and also because it
may be very difficult to justify your stand during your interview).

Before starting the essay,
consider if both the sides of the argument are equally strong logically. In this
particular topic, there is much more that can be said against it than in its

Start with a little background
in the introduction where you can explain what exactly Free Basics is. In the
main body of the essay, critically analyse the various perspectives associated
with the topic.

The conclusion will logically follow
from the body of the essay and will summarise your stance on the issue.

What to Write in the Answer

Here are some of
the points which you can use in the answer:

· Introduction: You may start with
addressing “what is Free Basics?” Formerly called, it is a
partnership between Facebook and six companies (Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia,
Opera Software, Qualcomm and Samsung) which aims to provide free access to
select internet websites in 37 countries. It was launched in August 2013. These
free sites include Wikipedia, AccuWeather and Facebook itself. In India, it
would include Bing search, job sites, multiple news and reference options, but
no other social domain.

This is what Facebook has used
as the description: “Free Basics by Facebook provides people with access to useful
services on their mobile phones in markets where internet access may be less
affordable. The websites are available for free without data charges, and include
content on things like news, employment, health, education and local
information.” You may not need to memorize the whole text, but mentioning the
basic idea would be a good intro.

· Main Body: Here you can start talking
about how the idea itself is against Net Neutrality, and how it limits the
access to information for users.

In December 2015, Telecom
Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) released a paper which questioned
differential data pricing for content services. After over six lakh responses
to this, it directed Free Basics’ Indian partner, Reliance Communications, to
put the service launch on hold.

Net Neutrality is the concept
that no one firm or authority can be allowed to set limitations on the
Internet, based on data girth or other parameters.

In its essence, differential
pricing should not become a device that leads to market dominance by the
Telecom Service Provider.

· Against Free Basics:  If Free Basics is allowed, users will have access to only those
websites that are endorsed by Facebook. This way, Facebook will become the
controller of all the information.

Once the access is limited, it
would be easy to manipulate the information channelled to the users. The very
idea of net neutrality will be defeated, and “internet” will become synonymous
with Facebook.

Some critics say that the programme
is a cover for a land grab and that it is a walled domain of content that is
approved by Facebook. This way all the businesses will be diverted to Facebook,
with no other medium. It also breaches the basic idea of consumer privacy.

When the data is propagated
only through the mentioned few sites, local domains will automatically be

· In Favour: There is not much you can
speak in favour, but do touch upon the points as much as possible.

Facebook argues that “there is
no greater threat to local innovation than leaving people offline”. And while
the elementary idea of reaching out to all corners of the world is good, the
approach is highly problematic.

If Facebook really does want to
contribute, it should make internet 100 per cent accessible and affordable.

· Conclusion: Since the number of
arguments vary, you may start with the few in favour of Free Basics. Then, you
can present your points on how it will be a huge threat to basic rights of
internet users, and how vulnerable people in far-off regions will be
manipulated through selective information. Finally, you can summarize with a
suggestion like “if Facebook genuinely wants to provide free internet access to
poor people, it should provide unlimited access to all websites, etc.”

The next topic
is – “With so many mergers and
acquisitions by big business houses in India, is there any future for small
scale enterprises in the country? Suggest ways to help out small scale
(IIM Indore, 2013)

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