Facebook went on the offensive Wednesday in an escalating row with Indian authorities over a controversial initiative which the social network says is aimed at widening online access in the developing world.

The social media giant took out billboards and full-page newspaper adverts and sent SMSs to defend its Free Basics service, which offers people without the Internet free access to a handful of websites through mobile phones.

Free Basics is “at risk of being banned” in India, Facebook said in the adverts, adding that the service aims to help a billion unconnected Indians — mostly living in poor rural areas — to get online.

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