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“Who could possibly be against this?” : Mark Zuckerberg’s framing of connectivity in the context of Free Basics

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Title: “Who could possibly be against this?” : Mark Zuckerberg’s framing of connectivity in the context of Free Basics
Author(s): Uimonen, Jenni
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences
Degree program: Master's Programme in Global Politics and Communication
Specialisation: Media and Democracy
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2020
This thesis studies Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s discourse on connectivity in the context of Free Basics. As a specific focus, this paper looks at a Facebook connectivity initiative called The initiative was launched in 2013 and it aims at connecting all of the world’s population to the internet. As a part of, Facebook developed a smartphone application called Free Basics. As mobile data can be costly in many less developed countries, Free Basics provides free internet access to a limited number of websites. These usually include categories such as Facebook, news sites, job listings, weather and health information. As of 2018, the application was active in over fifty countries around Asia, Africa and Latin America. The method used for analysing the data set is framing analysis. The data, which consists of 54 text documents published between 2013 and 2018, is collected from a single source, an American database called The Zuckerberg Files. This thesis finds that Zuckerberg frames connectivity and Free Basics in three different ways. The first frame, Free Basics as altruistic philanthropy, shows how Zuckerberg focuses on downplaying any possible business benefits that Facebook might have from Free Basics. He stresses the charitable nature of the connectivity initiative and claims that Facebook simply acts on the deep belief for their mission: connecting everyone in the world. The only possible economic profit, according to Zuckerberg, could be for the partnering telecommunications companies. The second frame, Free Basics for universal benefits, displays Facebook’s global outlook on the connectivity issue. In this discourse, Zuckerberg imagines Free Basics as an all-encompassing solution for the five billion people who are currently unconnected. He also argues for universal benefits from increased connectivity by referring to the “global knowledge economy”, where even the already connected people can gain from the new ideas that can now be shared through the internet. The third and last frame, Free Basics accelerating development, looks at Zuckerberg’s statements on how Free Basics can help people in developing countries improve their lives. In comparison to the second frame, here Zuckerberg uses individual people’s stories to give examples on all the areas Free Basics can be helpful in. These stories tie into themes of development, such as health and education, and Zuckerberg frames Free Basics and connectivity as simple, first-step fixes to a variety of issues. In conclusion, the results of this study seem to be in line with the previous studies on Zuckerberg’s discourse. Many elements discussed in the literature also occurred in my data: Facebook’s desire to appear neutral, the debate on net neutrality as well as the giant technology companies and their profound belief in technological determinism in development have been widely discussed earlier. By critically studying Zuckerberg’s argumentation, we gain a better understanding of the company’s actions and motives. This research is valuable because it uses a unique data set to provide an outlook to the way in which Zuckerberg frames Free Basics, as well as connectivity in general.
Keyword(s): Facebook Mark Zuckerberg Free Basics connectivity internet access net neutrality framing analysis Facebook Mark Zuckerberg Free Basics nettineutraliteetti kehysanalyysi

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