Software failures in Meta free internet service lead to unwanted charges for users, according to documents obtained by the whistleblower Francis Haugen and divided by The Wall Street Journal. Paid features, such as video, appear in free service mode, although clips should either remain hidden or alert users to data transfer costs. When users touch content, they are faced with operator bills that can be particularly difficult to pay for a targeted audience of customer service in developing countries.
The failure seems to have been lucrative for carriers. Meta estimates that operators have been charging free customers about $ 7.8 million a month since last summer. The problem was particularly serious in Pakistan, where users were reportedly charged a total of $ 1.9 million a month.
A spokesman for Meta said he had received reports of the problem and had “continued to work” to fix software flaws. New versions of the free mode explicitly label it as “text only” and do not imply that it will never cost money. The spokesman said the document, which estimates costs of $ 7.8 million a month, was not based on information from the mobile operator’s billing and that the excessive costs were closer to $ 3 million a month.
Target, like Google, has a strong interest in promoting free internet access. Most of its recent growth comes from developing countries where many people are jumping online for the first time. While the free service doesn’t limit users to just visiting Facebook and other services it owns, it increases the chances of newcomers signing up and boosting Meta’s growth.
There are other concerns about Meta’s free offers besides the surprising billing. The company has been criticized for paying too easily for data through in-app systems (instead of direct purchases from operators) and subsequent “loans” in some countries. It was too defendant pushes users of its Discover product towards content on its own services, while not doing enough to make external content easily accessible. Although the company claimed that it would treat all Internet traffic – either according to its own products or elsewhere – equally, the leaked document itself states that Discover “does not function in accordance with our obligations”.
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