A prominent venture capitalist and Facebook board director has apologised for tweets that condemned the Indian government for “anti-colonialism” after it banned the social media giant’s free internet service.
Marc Andreessen, who often takes to Twitter to offer his opinions, said on Wednesday new rules imposed by the government have denied India’s poor online access.
Only 252 million out of India’s 1.3 billion people have internet access.
India introduced rules on Monday preventing service providers from having different pricing policies, effectively dismantling Facebook’s Free Basics programme, which offers a pared-back version of the internet.
“Denying [the] world’s poorest free partial internet connectivity when today they have none, for ideological reasons, strikes me as morally wrong,” Andreessen wrote.
“Anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades. Why stop now?”
Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook chief executive, condemned Andreessen’s Twitter outburst in a Facebook post.
“I found the comments deeply upsetting, and they do not represent the way Facebook or I think at all,” Zuckerberg said, adding India was “personally” important to him and the company.
Dozens of Twitter users blasted Andreessen for his comments, which he deleted.
“I apologise for any offence my comment caused, and withdraw it in full and without reservation,” Andreessen wrote. “I will leave all future commentary on all of these topics to people with more knowledge and experience than me.”
Earlier this week, Zuckerberg said that he was disappointed with the Indian ruling, adding the company was still “working to break down barriers to connectivity in India and around the world”.
Regulators in India say that because Free Basics only allows access to selected websites, albeit free, it violates the principle that the entire internet should be available to everyone on equal terms.
While not ruling explicitly on net neutrality, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India decided not to allow what it called “discriminatory pricing” for different data platforms or content.
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