Venture capitalist and well-known Twitter philosopher Marc Andreessen made a few enemies Tuesday night. Okay, a lot of enemies.
That’s because Andreessen, a Facebook board member, took to Twitter to defend the company’s Free Basics service, which offers users some free Internet services. It was recently banned by Indian regulators for violating the concept of net neutrality.
The discussion started off with Andreessen calling the ban “morally wrong.”
But things took a bad turn when Andreessen compared Facebook’s Free Basics effort to colonialism, suggesting that Indians were setting themselves up for economic disaster by resisting Facebook’s “help.”
“Anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades. Why stop now?” he tweeted. The tweet has since been deleted, but here’s a screenshot. (FYI, Marc, the Internet is written in ink, in case you did not see the movie.)
Andreessen was clumsily referring to the sluggish growth of India in the decades after colonialism. And he, perhaps inadvertently, hit a long-simmering hot-button debate in India about the source of economic growth.
And he also inadvertently revealed why Facebook fumbled its strategy in India. Part of the backlash against Internet.org, the Free Basics predecessor, was that it imposed a particularly narrow type of Internet access, with an American tech company, Facebook, picking the services (and therefore the winners).
Not surprisingly, Twitter users freaked out and blasted Andreessen for the comments.
Then, realizing his faux pas, Andreessen attempted to rectify the situation — but the damage was done.
Clearly, this was not a Facebook-endorsed message. The company and CEO Mark Zuckerberg have been trying to defend its free Internet program for months. And Andreessen’s argument only reinforces the perception that Facebook wants Free Basics in India to convert its massive population into more money-making users of the social networking giant.
Update: Andreessen offered an actual apology — via Twitter, of course, with the help of an emoji — Wednesday morning:
Facebook is also trying to publicly distance itself from Andreessen’s comments. “We strongly reject the sentiments expressed by Marc Andreessen last night regarding India,” a company spokesperson told Re/code.
Additional reporting by Mark Bergen.
Re/Code Decode: Marc Andreessen
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.