Mark Zuckerberg responds to Facebook 'colonialism' comments in India

The motivations behind the company's bid to get more people online by offering free internet services have been questioned by some...

Mark Zuckerberg responds to Facebook 'colonialism' comments in India

Ben Margot / AP

Mark Zuckerberg has been forced to respond to comments from a prominent Facebook board member who accused Indian authorities of engaging in "anti-colonialism" when blocking its efforts to offer limited free internet services in the country.

Facebook's "Free Basics" programme brings internet access to regions which are currently offline - activists in the country claimed that rolling out the scheme would give Facebook an unfair advantage in the country's emerging market for internet services.

The ruling against "discriminatory pricing" for different data platforms or content in the country has made the project impossible to roll out.

Facebook board member, and venture capitalist, Marc Andreessen took (somewhat ironically) to Twitter to vent his frustration at the India decision.

"Denying world's poorest free partial internet connectivity when today they have none, for ideological reasons, strikes me as morally wrong," he wrote.

"Anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades. Why stop now?" he continued in the now-deleted posts.

I want to respond to Marc Andreessen's comments about India yesterday. I found the comments deeply upsetting, and they...

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took to his Facebook account today to address the comments.

"I found the comments deeply upsetting, and they do not represent the way Facebook or I think at all," he said.

Mr Andreessen also retracted the statement, "I apologise for any offence my comment caused, and withdraw it in full and without reservation," he wrote.

"I will leave all future commentary on all of these topics to people with more knowledge and experience than me," the investor continued.

Some 252 million of India's 1.3 billion inhabitants are currently online.

Facebook's service has been criticised for only offering certain services.

Indian regulators raised concerns about how internet access offered for free by one company could shape the country's digital landscape, saying:

"This can prove to be risky in the medium to long term as the knowledge and outlook of those users would be shaped only by the information made available through those select offerings."

Facebook has been accused of using its connectivity project, Internet.org as a means to gain unfair control in new markets.

Writing for Quartz, Om Malik criticised the project, he writes:

"Internet.org isn’t about the internet, so Facebook should stop calling it as such and call it what it is: Facebook Free (with strings attached). To call it Internet.org is actually the first sin of this whole debacle."