Facebook board member Marc Andreessen today set off a controversy by terming India’s decision to bar discriminatory Internet tariff as an “anti-colonialist” idea and said the country would have been better off if it remained under British rule.
Andreessen, one of Silicon Valley’s foremost venture capitalists, and his partner Benedict Evans took to Twitter to vent out their frustration about telecom regulator TRAI banning Facebook’s Free Basics and other such plans that charge different rates for Internet access based on content.
The move was hailed as a victory for net neutrality, the principle that all Internet websites should be equally accessible.
Andreessen, or @pmarca as he’s known on Twitter, wrote: “Anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades. Why stop now?”
“Another in a long line of economically suicidal decisions made by the Indian government against its own citizens,” he tweeted. “Denying world’s poorest free partial Internet connectivity when today they have none, for ideological reasons, strikes me as morally wrong.”
His partner at the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, Evans, who uses the handle @BenedictEvans, chimed in: “It’s a terrible thing to offer people with no money the choice of something free.”
The comments drew sharp criticism from netizens with some calling Facebook’s Free Basics plan as Internet colonialism.
Sayeed Anjum responded to the tweet saying the subtext of Andreessen’s tweet is that “colonialism would any day be better economically. Natives should learn to take help.”
Another response read: “Now @facebook Board Director @pmarca suggests being colonized was good for India & we should’ve let Fb do so:).”
Netizen Gayatri Jayaraman tweeted: “yup @pmarca and @facebook clearly see themselves as the new East India Co colonial saviours to poor brown India.”
Facing flak, Andreessen removed the tweet. Later, he attempted to walk away from the discussion he fired up saying “I hereby withdraw from all future discussions of Indian economics or politics. Carry on.”
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had also expressed disappointment, saying the decision restricts programmes of his and other organisations that provide free access to data.
Free Basics, being run by the world’s largest social networking company, drew major criticism from experts who alleged that it curbed one’s freedom to access the Internet of their choice.