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Facebook's Free Basics App Has Been Temporarily Banned in India

Facebook faces more backlash in India over its free Internet offering.

Mark Zuckerberg / Facebook

Facebook’s Free Basics, the app that lets users access certain Internet services (like Facebook) for free in emerging markets, has been temporarily banned in India, according to The Times of India.

Reliance Communications, the only carrier that provides Free Basics in the country, was asked to stop supporting the app while the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, India’s independent regulatory body, explored whether or not Free Basics violates the concept of net neutrality, The Times of India reported late Tuesday night.

A Facebook spokesperson offered up the following statement, but would not comment on whether or not Free Basics has actually been banned: “We are committed to Free Basics and to working with Reliance and the relevant authorities to help people in India get connected,” the statement reads.

We’ve reached out to Reliance Communications and TRAI and will update if we hear back.

The regulatory concern over Free Basics is not surprising, although the apparent decision to ban the app is a big one. It’s the first time Free Basics, which is part of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s pet project to bring Internet access to the entire globe, has been banned in India, the country with the second-largest number of Facebook users outside the United States.

India has pushed back aggressively against in the past, so much so that Facebook has used its own service to lobby users to send messages in support of to Indian authorities. TRAI is set to hold a public hearing on net neutrality next month.

The concern from regulators is that Facebook’s free Internet service violates net neutrality, the idea that all Internet content should be treated equally. Free Basics offers certain services for free, but not the entire Internet, meaning lots of other services are essentially behind a paywall. Facebook tried to appease critics in May by opening up Free Basics so others could join, but that clearly hasn’t been enough.

The concern here from Facebook — beyond just losing its Free Basics app in the world’s second-most populous country — is that the backlash in India will carry over to other important markets, like Brazil. India will likely set an precedent. And so far it’s not a very good one for Facebook.

It has been a tough month for Facebook services in other countries. Just last week Facebook-owned WhatsApp was temporarily banned by a judge in Brazil over an encryption issue.

This article originally appeared on

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