Facebook’s Free Basics program has landed the social networker in another trouble. The fact that the program has been blocked in India didn’t go down well with Marc Andreessen, a prominent Silicon Valley investor and Facebook board member, who posted a series of offensive tweets on with reference to India’s colonial history.
Free Basics in controversy again
Facebook’s Free Basics program seeks to offer access to certain Internet sites and services for free in parts of the world that are deprived of online access. However, it didn’t get approval from Indian regulators, who blocked the service on Monday, saying it violates the principle of net neutrality.
Net neutrality says all types of content and services on the Internet should have equal access, and the regulators concluded that Facebook was picking a few services for free access and was thus violating that ideal.
Marc Andreessen, who has a fiery personality, said on Twitter that the decision is “morally wrong” since it denies partial Internet connectivity to poor people. Later, he responded to a tweet that clearly indicated that he was in favor of colonialism in India. Andreessen deleted the tweet, but before that, Quartz and Business Insider had already captured it.
The tweet read: “Anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades. Why stop now?”
Facebook rejects Andreessen’s view
India is the world’s second most populous country with more than a billion people, and until 1947, it was a British colony. Andreessen’s remarks offended the sentiments of Indians. Andreessen Horowitz, which is his venture capital firm, made no further comment. Andreessen said he withdrew his comments “in full and without reservation.”
In an attempt to calm the outage, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on his Facebook page: “I want to respond to Marc Andreessen’s comments about India yesterday. I found the comments deeply upsetting, and they do not represent the way Facebook or I think at all.”
Reiterating the same sentiment, a Facebook spokeswoman said the company “strongly rejects” the sentiments Andreessen expressed regarding India. His “upsetting” comment comes at a time when a number of Silicon Valley companies are increasingly trying to woo India and other developing countries to their services. For example, Google and SpaceX are making attempts to beam down the Internet to rural regions via balloons and satellites.