Vijay Shekhar Sharma, the founder of digital wallet-turned-e-commerce firm Paytm, on Tuesday launched a scathing attack on Facebook's campaign for its Free Basics internet access programme, calling for a 'jihad' to save a free internet without any corporate agendas. Sharma said India's digital independence is threatened by the world's largest social network, tweeting, somewhat dramatically, "Oh my fellow Indians, either choose this and do a jihaad for independent internet later or pick net neutrality today."
"I am surprised that we in this time and age might get our digital independence threatened. All for #NetNeutrality," Sharma said on Twitter, adding "Open and out. Internet won't be equal for all. Divides our country into digital haves & have nots ! #NetNeutrality."
Last week, Facebook took a leaf out of the net neutrality activists' book to use emails to launch a public campaign addressed to India's telecom regulator to push for its Free Basics project that allows telecoms free internet access to apps such as Facebook.
The campaign 'Act Now to Save Free Basics in India' asks users to send a message on their behalf to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India with a subject line that reads "I support Free Basics in India."
The message reads: "To the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, I support digital equality for India.
Free Basics provides free access to essential internet services like communication, education, healthcare, employment, farming and more. It helps those who can't afford to pay for data, or who need a little help getting started online. And it's open to all people, developers and mobile operators. With 1 billion Indian people not yet connected, shutting down Free Basics would hurt our country's most vulnerable people. I support Free Basics - and digital equality for India. Thank you."
The campaign is run on the social networking site which has over 130 million users in India, its second largest user base globally.
On Monday, Facebook in a note to Re/code said that it had mistakenly launched the emailer campaign outside India.