‘Deeply Upsetting:' Zuckerberg Responds to Marc Andreessen's Tweet Comparing ‘Free Basics' in India to Colonialism

Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg are distancing themselves from venture capitalist Marc Andreessen’s poorly-worded comments that came after Indian regulators nixed Facebook’s plan to implement “Free Basics” in India.

The “Free Basics” program — which promised free internet service to a limited number of websites, including Facebook — has been hugely controversial in India, with opponents calling it a violation of net neutrality.

On Tuesday night, after the proposal was blocked by Indian telecom regulators as part of a ruling favoring net neutrality, an upset Andreessen, who sits on Facebook, Inc.’s board, compared it to colonialism.

In a tweet quickly deleted (but captured by Gizmodo), Andreessen wrote: “Anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades. Why stop now?”

That comment made him a lot of enemies, with many calling it "racist." “In which a top Silicon Valley VC goes off the rails and calls for a return to colonial rule for India,” one Twitter user wrote.

Andreessen, famous for his tweetstorms, also sent out this tweet about the announcement: “Denying world's poorest free partial Internet connectivity when today they have none, for ideological reasons, strikes me as morally wrong.”

Nitin Pai, who runs a Bengaluru-based think-tank The Takshashila Foundation, told the Times of India Andreessen was "misinformed."

"The idea that the (Trai) decision prevents poor people from getting web access is just wrong. The 'anti-colonial' remark was out of place," he said.

“I found the comments deeply upsetting, and they do not represent the way Facebook or I think at all,” Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook wall Wednesday afternoon. “India has been personally important to me and Facebook. Early on in my thinking about our mission, I traveled 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.”

Andreessen has since apologized for his comments, tweeting: “I hereby withdraw from all future discussions of Indian economics or politics. Carry on...”

To clear things up a bit further he tweeted: “And for the record, I am opposed to colonialism.”

On Wednesday morning, Andreessen offered a longer apology.

“Facebook stands for helping to connect people and giving them voice to shape their own future,” Zuckerberg wrote in his post. “But to shape the future we need to understand the past. As our community in India has grown, I've gained a deeper appreciation for the need to understand India's history and culture. 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." [[368392851, C]]

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I want to respond to Marc Andreessen's comments about India yesterday. I found the comments deeply upsetting, and they... Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday, February 10, 2016

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