SAN FRANCISCO — Free Basics, the increasingly controversial Facebook service that provides users in the developing world with free access to select websites on mobile devices, has been shut down in Egypt.
Facebook says more than 3 million people in Egypt had signed up for the free service. Of those, 1 million gained access to the Internet for the very first time, it said.
“We’re disappointed that Free Basics will no longer be available in Egypt,” Facebook told the Associated Press.
The service, launched with Etisalat Egypt, had been in place for two months. It was not immediately clear why the service was shut down.
Free Basics, formerly known as the Internet.org app, gives access to Facebook and other web services without data charges. It has run into trouble in India, where activists allege the program violates network neutrality, the principle that all Internet sites should be equally accessible.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took on detractors of Free Basics in an op-ed for the Times of India this week.
“Instead of welcoming Free Basics as an open platform that will partner with any telco, and allows any developer to offer services to people for free, they claim — falsely — that this will give people less choice,” Zuckerberg wrote. “Instead of recognizing that Free Basics fully respects net neutrality, they claim — falsely — the exact opposite.”
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