Marc Andreessen is a venture capitalist best known for co-creating Mosaic, the first widely adopted web browser and has an estimated net work of around $600 million. Mr. Andreessen is also a Facebook board member and one of their most loyal supporters. On Tuesday evening, he defended Facebook’s Free Basics initiative which aims to provide internet access to impoverished nations through simplified phone applications. However, Indian regulators criticized the programme and claimed it only allowed for free access on certain services and discriminated against smaller companies. As a result, the Indian regulators believed Facebook was trying to “shape the users’ Internet experience”. When presented with this information, Mr. Andreessen voiced his opinion on Twitter (always a terrible idea) and made some extremely offensive claims:
Mark Zuckerberg released a statement distancing himself from Andreessen’s remarks and reiterated that they didn’t reflect Facebook’s attitude:
“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.”
As you might expect, the social media backlash and comments from Zuckerberg encouraged Andreessen to make a full apology:
This entire situation demonstrates why it’s so important to think before posting opinions online especially if you represent a huge company like Facebook. Clearly, the comments were misguided, and seemed quite reactionary to the decision to favour net neutrality.
Image courtesy of BusinessInsider.