Facebook, Net Neutrality & the Future of News

On net neutrality:
Facebook (and by extension telecom operator Airtel) may be rightly facing a backlash for its Internet.org initiative in India for trying to subvert the very fabric of the Web, but CEO Mark Zuckerberg thinks otherwise. After several partners, including Cleartrip, NDTV and several others, pulled out of Facebook's project to provide bundled Internet services for free through a practice called zero rating, CEO Zuckerberg published a lengthy Facebook post stating his belief in providing everyone in the world with an opportunity to access the Internet, adding "some connectivity is definitely better than none" in response to a comment. Even if I buy this argument of his, it cannot be denied that Internet.org skews competition by positively discriminating against a list of Facebook partnered services and that there's no clear cut transparency on how these services are selected in the first place. If browsing Bing is free, why would I have to pay to browse Google? Who is Facebook to decide for me (the user) as to which search engine I should use?

Facebook now wants to be your first source for news:
More than anything, the social network's ever-increasing footprint on the World Wide Web is proving to be game-changing for the better or worse. With a whopping 936 million people using it every day, it hence comes as no surprise that the tech giant wants you to use it everywhere, even at work, and for everything, even if that means it became your first destination for news. Its recent foray into this business with FB Newswire notwithstanding, Facebook now has plans for news organisations to publish full length articles on the social network itself instead of them having to be reached via a link on their Timelines (aka a Facebook referral), according to a report by the Wall Street Journal (paywall). New York Times, Buzzfeed and National Geographic are said to be partnering with Facebook on this new initiative called Instant Articles that's said to be unveiled in the near future.

With brands (news outlets included) required to have a strong social media presence these days for survival and given Facebook's questionable tryst with censorship, will letting the Menlo Park-based tech giant host content natively change forever the way we consume news? Writing for the Columbia Journalism Review, popular Guardian CiF columnist Trevor Timm, cautions that Facebook's latest web-within-a-web strategy "has the potential to rob news organizations of their soul" and "give Facebook too much control over which news organizations thrive and which will die", adding it has "ruled with an iron-fist" when it comes to censoring content it deemed unworthy for the sake of its own "survival". Furthermore, the social network's approach to organic reach versus paid reach, which in itself is a sort of censorship by taking an algorithmic approach to what posts users should see, forces brands to shell out money for a wider reach and visibility amongst Facebook audience. Which effectively means, cash-rich news outlets will see their content go viral, while cash-strapped outlets will suffer.

Facebook, with its myriad acquisitions of potential competitors and promising upstarts— from Instagram to WhatsApp and many more—has itself well positioned to dominate Internet sharing for years to come. But with that dominance will come scrutiny. Along with increased wariness from news organizations, like Microsoft and Google before it, Facebook could one day face regulatory restrictions as well...