The head of Facebook India has stepped down as the fiasco deepens for the social network.
Facebook’s big move into India didn’t go exactly how Mark Zuckerberg had planned, and things only seem to be getting worse.
Kirthiga Reddy, the longtime head of Facebook in India, has resigned from her post and will be moving back to the United States after holding that position for six years thanks to a deepening public relations disaster for Facebook and its plans to provide access for poor people, according to a VentureBeat.com report.
Facebook claims her departure was long planned and had nothign to do with the Free Basic Services backlash. Many had criticized the program as a violation of net neutrality principles, and telecomr regulator TRAI banned it recently.
The situation wasn’t helped by Facebook board member Marc Andreessen, who brought up India and colonialism, resulting in a public apology. The flap started when Andreessen tweeted that it was wrong to ban Free Basics. When some pointed out that Free Basics resembled the East Indian Company entering India on the pretext of conducting free trade and eventually colonizing India for two centuries, Andreessen’s response was less than ideal: “Anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades. Why stop now?” Facebook quickly distanced themselves from his comments.
Free Basics comes from a partnership of Facebook and six companies (Samsung, Ericsson, MediaTek, Opera Software, Nokia and Qualcomm) called Internet.org. The stated aim of the partnership is to bring affordable access to less developed countries. However, many have criticized the effort because it involves handpicking internet services and discriminating against rivals of Facebook. Regulators banned the service in India earlier this month due to “Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations.”