Things for Facebook in India have gone from bad to worse within a day. The famed Silicon valley VC and Facebook Board Member, Mark Andreessen caused a massive uproar on social media from his tweet on India which turned out to be a PR disaster for Facebook.
The timing could not have been worse for Facebook which is still recovering from the TRAI’s ban on Free Basics, on which it had spent hundreds of dollars in its marketing campaign in India.
It all started when Andreessen called the decision to ban Free Basics a morally wrong decision.
Denying world’s poorest free partial Internet connectivity when today they have none, for ideological reasons, strikes me as morally wrong,”
However, Twiterrati were quick to point out the similarity between the Free Basics and East India Company which entered India on the pretext of doing trade and eventually ended up colonising and ruling India for 200 years.
To this Andreessen replied,
Anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades. Why stop now?
Andreessen while displaying his total ignorance of the economic history of India implied that economic condition in India under British rule had been much better than post-colonialism era.
This proved to be a huge mistake and quite naturally, Andreessen was heavily criticised from all directions which ultimately led Andreessen to delete that tweet.
Andreessen did try to do some damage control by withdrawing “from all future discussions of Indian economics or politics” and asserting that he was opposed to colonialism in any country but the damage had already been done.
I apologize for any offense caused by my earlier tweet about Indian history and politics. I admire India and the Indian people enormously,
Later, Facebook gave a statement to the press saying,
We strongly reject the sentiments expressed by Marc Andreessen last night regarding India.
Now Mark Zuckerberg has also responded to Andreessen’s comments by posting through his Facebook page. Zuckerberg said,
I found the comments deeply upsetting, and they do not represent the way Facebook or I think at all.
Zuckerberg then went on expressing his views on the importance of India and how he was inspired by the humanity, spirit and values of the Indian people.
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,
wrote Zuckerberg trying to mitigate the damage done to the image of Facebook in the eyes of Indian people.
Andreessen has also issued a detailed apology through a series of tweets a couple of hours ago admitting that his comments were ill informed and ill advised.
Last night on Twitter, I made an ill-informed and ill-advised comment about Indian politics and economics.To be clear, I am 100% opposed to colonialism, and 100% in favor of independence and freedom, in every country, including India. I am a huge admirer of the nation of India and the Indian people, who have been nothing but kind and generous to me for many years. I apologize for any offense my comment caused, and withdraw it in full and without reservation. I will leave all future commentary on all of these topics to people with more knowledge and experience than me.
Well, one could only say that despite the apologies and statements, this event has caused a heavy and more pronounced damage to the reputation of Facebook in India, much more than its Free Basics campaign which was opposed by a limited section of the people.