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Image credit: Reuters/Herculano Coroado

Free Facebook and Wikipedia inadvertently foster piracy networks

Basic internet services have opened the door to file sharing in Angola.
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Reuters/Herculano Coroado

Free-but-limited internet services can help communication and knowledge in countries where just owning a computer is a luxury, but they're not immune to abuse. Motherboard notes that some Angolans have created ad hoc piracy networks by hiding files in Wikipedia pages (which they can access through Wikipedia Zero) and sharing links to them in private Facebook groups (available in Facebook's Free Basics). Wikipedia has tried banning some of the connections used to plant those files, but that has been a double-edged sword -- it also ended up blocking people making legitimate contributions.

For its part, the Wikipedia Zero team says that large-scale bans or access changes are "not on the table." It's also looking into Angola's (typically light) copyright laws to see what it can do. However, the file sharing raises a question: how much energy do these free services put into enforcing the rules from their normal sites? While movie and music creators might not be happy that people are swiping their work, cracking down on piracy could do far more damage by shutting out innocents who just want a taste of the internet access that many of us take for granted.

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