Facebook has run into trouble trying to get its Free Basics internet service into India because it violates Net Neutrality by giving away some applications — like Facebook — for free, while others are subject to data charges. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been persistent in his attempts to finesse an argument for Free Basics in the face of protests, but on Tuesday night, one of Facebook’s board members undid Zuck’s PR work by … well, by seemingly … defending … colonialism? Oh boy.
Marc Andreessen, a prominent venture capitalist and angry Twitter egg, wrote that “anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades. Why stop now?”
Silicon Valley, always looking to disrupt our entrenched preconceptions, is now trying to disrupt our preconception that Gandhi was right.
After his name started trending in India due to all the Twitter backlash, Andreessen apparently decided his white man’s burden had become too heavy and deleted the tweet.
You know you’ve messed up when you have to make a public statement clarifying that you’re actually against colonialism.
Benedict Evans, an analyst with Andreessen Horowitz who recently became an internet punching bag after he complained that San Francisco lacks an “amazing carpet shop,”was quick to defend Andreessen’s colonialism tweet as “utterly uncontroversial.” (He references “the Hindu rate of growth,” an outdated term that attempts to lay India’s slow rate of economic growth from the 1950s through the 1980s at the feet of Hindu cultural factors.)
It was so uncontroversial that many Indians jumped on the thread to suggest that maybe the consequences of colonialism, and not India’s eventual independence from British rule, are to blame for India’s current economic system. Weird. It’s almost as if people have their own opinions about what’s good for their country and don’t like to be condescended to by Silicon Valley money-men.
Anyway, despite recent regulatory rulings against Free Basics, Facebook will probably continue to look for ways to assimilate the world’s second-largest country into its social-network Borg collective. I mean, nobly connect the global poor to the internet in a benevolent and non-colonial fashion.
Update: At around 5pm Wednesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg distanced himself from Andreessen’s comments, writing that they “do not represent the way Facebook or I think” about India.