While free (but restricted) Internet services are a boon in encouraging communication in developing countries — where even owning a PC is a luxury — can often be abused and misused. Case in point, Angola.
The South African nation is a beneficiary of free access to Wikimedia and Facebook thanks to the benevolence of the two companies. However, Angolans seem to have discovered some loopholes and are now turning the services into a file sharing paradise.
How? They are reportedly hiding pirated content — films, TV shows, anime, game and music — inside articles on Wikipedia and sharing the links to these on private groups on Facebook.
Online publication Motherboard reports that a few Angolans have developed ad hoc piracy networks. They have done so by sneaking files inside Wikipedia pages. These pages can be accessed by Angolans — even though they cannot access other Internet websites — thanks to the Wikipedia Zero program. The hidden links are shared in closed Facebook groups, access to the social network is available courtesy of Facebook's Free Basics program.
"Because the data is completely free, Angolans are hiding large files in Wikipedia articles on the Portuguese Wikipedia site (Angola is a former Portuguese colony)-sometimes concealing movies in JPEG or PDF files. They're then using a Facebook group to direct people to those files, creating a robust, completely free file sharing network. A description for a Facebook group with 2,700 members reads: 'created with the objective of sharing music, movies, pictures, and ANIMES via Wikimedia,'" notes the publication.
The misuse of the free Internet access, especially in a nation where mobile data is quite dear, to the two sites is concerning as Angolans continue to misappropriate the platforms to create a completely free and covert network for file sharing.
While the method of using the two services for piracy purposes is sneakily clever and creative, it is becoming a serious cause for concern. Editors at Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation are at a loss on how to counter the situation. Wikipedia tried banning a few IP addresses that were accessed to plant the pirated files in articles. However, this is a catch 22 situation as the Wikipedia Zero platform also ended up blocking some genuine contributors.
Disallowing Wikipedia Zero program users in Angola from editing Wikipedia articles and only restricting them to reading the same could be a possible solution to the issue, especially in light of editors revealing that they are tired of manually deleting pirated content constantly from Wikipedia.
The team at Wikipedia Zero is not in favor of access changes or a large-scale ban and revealed that they are "not on the table." The team is reportedly looking into the copyright laws in the nation to devise a course of action.