Then, a high-profile member of Facebook’s board of directors, the venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, sounded off about the decision to his nearly half-a-million Twitter followers with a stunning comment.“Anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades,” Andreessen wrote. Which probably helps explain why Zuckerberg felt the need to step in, and which brings us back to Free Basics.
The platform, billed by Facebook as a way to help people connect to the Internet for the first time, offers a stripped-down version of the mobile web that people can use without it counting toward their data-usage limit.
“I’m loath to toss around words like colonialism but it’s hard to ignore the family resemblances and recognizable DNA, to wit,” said Deepika Bahri, an English professor at Emory University who focuses on postcolonial studies.
In an email, In India, where Free Basics has been the subject of a long, public debate, plenty of people already rejected the platform precisely because of its colonialist overtones.
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“We’ve been stupid with the East India Company,” one Reddit user said in a forum about Free Basics last year, referring to the British Raj. ”“I see the project as both colonialist and deceptive,” Ethan Zuckerman, the director of the MIT Center for Civic Media, told me.