Zuckerberg distances Facebook from Andreessen’s offensive India comments

11 Feb 2016

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO

Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg has come out in defence of his company, distancing it from comments made by board member Marc Andreessen about Indian colonialism.

Facebook has been trying to get Free Basics – its free internet service for disadvantaged areas, renamed from Internet.org recently – into India for a while now.

However, amid opposition to what some see as a vehicle to fuel Facebook’s ever-growing pile of sourced marketing information, the tech giant has landed in some unexpected hot water.

It’s unexpected in that surely nobody saw a board member rueing the end of the Raj coming. But that’s pretty much what happened when Marc Andreessen got involved in a Twitter conversation about the decision to block Free Basics in India.

Morally wrong

“Denying the world’s poorest free partial internet connectivity when today they have none, for ideological reasons, strikes me as morally wrong,” he began.

A user responded with reference to “internet colonialism”, before Andreessen said: “Anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades. Why stop now?”

While he then tried as best he could to remove his foot from his mouth – deleting tweets, withdrawing from “all future discussions on Indian economics” – plenty of criticism was thrown his way on Twitter.

Uh oh, the boss is watching

The fallout has seen Mark Zuckerberg state his company’s position, which is as far from Andreessen’s comments as possible.

Responding to the tweets, Zuckerberg said they were “deeply upsetting” in a post on Facebook, claiming they don’t represent his company’s, or his, views at all.

“India has been personally important to me and Facebook. Early on in my thinking about our mission, I travelled to India and was inspired by the humanity, spirit and values of the people. It solidified my understanding that when all people have the power to share their experiences, the entire world will make progress.”

Zuckerberg said his company “stands for helping to connect people” and he has gained a deeper appreciation for India as his company’s community has grown in the country.

“I’ve been inspired by how much progress India has made in building a strong nation and the largest democracy in the world, and I look forward to strengthening my connection to the country.”

What a bizarre event.

Main image of Mark Zuckerberg via Catwalker/Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic