Facebook India policy chief Das steps down after row over BJP bias2 min read . Updated: 28 Oct 2020, 05:47 AM IST
- The controversy broke out after The Wall Street Journal reported, citing current and former Facebook employees, on 15 August that Das had opposed the removal of hate speeches although they breached the company’s standards
Controversial Facebook Inc. executive Ankhi Das quit her job on Tuesday, more than two months after being accused of ignoring calls to remove hate speeches by a ruling party lawmaker.
Das, who led the company’s influential policy team in India, and south and central Asia, stepped down to “pursue interests in public service", Facebook said in a statement.
“Ankhi was one of our earliest employees in India and played an instrumental role in the growth of the company and its services over the last nine years. She has been a part of my leadership team over the last two years, a role in which she has made enormous contributions," said Ajit Mohan, vice-president and managing director of Facebook India.
The controversy broke out after The Wall Street Journal reported, citing current and former Facebook employees, on 15 August that Das had opposed the removal of hate speeches although they breached the company’s standards. Facebook deleted the posts by BJP lawmaker Raja Singh and other Hindu nationalists only after the newspaper questioned the company on the decision.
Das’s departure had been expected ever since the WSJ report, two public policy experts said on condition of anonymity.
Mohan, however, has denied that Facebook has favoured any political party, characterizing its content moderation policy as non-partisan and unbiased.
“Public policy (team) in India, while being one stakeholder who can express one point of view among many voices, but they did not have any decision-making power in this. The content policy team that is on the hook for enforcing content decisions in India is separate and independent from the public policy team," he said in a 16 September interview with Mint.
The company had on 12 October hired a former executive director of the Centre for Internet and Society, Sunil Abraham, as the director of public policy for data and emerging technology for India. The company had then said Abraham would report to Das and she remains the head for its policy efforts in the country. It’s unclear whether Abraham will take over Das’s position.
“As part of the public policy leadership team, Abraham will contribute to important policy development initiatives and proceedings in India and the south Asia region on data protection, privacy, new and emerging tech, and represent Facebook’s position in these multi-stakeholder processes," the company had said in a press release at the time.
Facebook was questioned by a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) looking at the Personal Data Protection Bill last week. Representatives of the company, including Das, appeared in front of the JPC to answer questions about data portability, advertisement revenue generated from India and corporate tax being paid here.