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Facebook board member’s ‘colonial’ tweet on India sets off storm

| PAWAN BALI
Published : Feb 11, 2016, 5:26 am IST
Updated : Feb 11, 2016, 5:26 am IST

Facebook board member and Silicon Valley venture capitalist Marc Andreessen on Wednesday kicked off a huge controversy on the social media by suggesting that India’s decision to bar discriminatory tar

Facebook board member and Silicon Valley venture capitalist Marc Andreessen on Wednesday kicked off a huge controversy on the social media by suggesting that India’s decision to bar discriminatory tariffs for data services was an “anti-colonialist” idea and that it would be “economically catastrophic” for the country.

“Anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades. Why stop now ” tweeted Mr Andreessen. Many saw Mr Andreessen’s tweet as implying that Facebook’s Free Basics was the same as colonialism, and that Indians were destined for economic disaster by banning it.

Mr Andreessen’s partner Benedict Evans at the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz also took to Twitter to vent out his anger against Trai for banning Facebook’s Free Basics. He tweeted that Indians “also choose a government that said a 10-year wait to get a phone was good: showed how popular the system was”.

After an uproar erupted all across the social media, Mr Andreessen, however, deleted his controversial tweets. “I apologise for any offence caused by my earlier tweet about Indian history and politics. I admire India and the Indian people enormously,” he tweeted later.

He further said: “India is an amazing country with amazing people. Indian companies and people have had profoundly positive effect on the Internet and world!” And then went on to add: “I now withdraw from all future discussions of Indian economics and politics, and leave them to people with more knowledge and experience!”

But the drama was not yet over. Mr Andreessen blocked some people who were supporters of Net neutrality and opposed Free Basics, including investor Mahesh Murthy. “Whoa, I made it to the Cool List of people blocked by @pmarca,” tweeted Mr Murthy. He had earlier tweeted: “Now @facebook Board Director @pmarca suggests being colonised was good for India & we should’ve let Fb do so:)”.

Ruling in “favour” of “Net neutrality” in India, telecom regulator Trai had on Monday barred telecom operators from offering discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content. Trai’s new regulation meant an end to Facebook’s Free Basics, for which it had launched a high-pitched marketing blitz across the country.

Mr Andreessen faced flak on Twitter for his statements. “Dude, you need yoga. Calm down and think again before uttering,” said one tweet. Some suggested “Don’t piss off a billion people”. “Best to stay away from Indian cricket too... You will not know what hit you,” said another. Some targeted Mr Evans too. “@BenedictEvans your mental agony at this slap from the TRAI is lovely to watch”.

Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi