Facebook distanced itself from board member Marc Andreessen after he sparked a Twitter storm by posting offensive remarks about colonialism in India, and now the venture capitalist has apologized for his controversial comments.
“I apologize for any offense caused by my earlier tweet about Indian history and politics. I admire India and the Indian people enormously,” he wrote on Twitter Wednesday.
“India is an amazing country with amazing people. Indian companies and people have had profoundly positive effect on the Internet and world!” Andreessen added, before vowing to withdraw from any future discussions of their economy.
The social media conflagration began on Tuesday evening when Andreessen defended Facebook’s Free Basics, an initiative that seeks to provide Internet access to people worldwide — especially in developing countries — through simplified phone applications that run more efficiently.
In now deleted tweets, he went on to criticize Indian regulators for opposing the so-called zero data plan and likened it to colonialism.
“Anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades. Why stop now?” Andreessen wrote, according to the New York Times.
“Denying world’s poorest free partial Internet connectivity when today they have none, for ideological reasons, strikes me as morally wrong,” he continued.
His comments sparked a flood of angry reactions, many from those of Indian descent, who were disgusted by his comments.
Facebook quickly issued a statement saying: “We strongly reject the sentiments expressed by Marc Andreessen last night regarding India.”
Meanwhile, founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg addressed it on his own Facebook page. “I want to respond to Marc Andreessen’s comments about India yesterday. I found the comments deeply upsetting, and they do not represent the way Facebook or I think at all,” he said in a statement.
Andreessen, 44, is best known as the coauthor of Mosaic, the first widely used Web browser; as cofounder of Netscape; and as cofounder and general partner of Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. He currently sits on the board of directors at Facebook.
Read Zuckerberg’s full statement below and see Andreessen’s tweets.
I want to respond to Marc Andreessen’s comments about India yesterday. I found the comments deeply upsetting, and they do not represent the way Facebook or I think at all.
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.
Facebook stands for helping to connect people and giving them voice to shape their own future. 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.