Home / News / India /  Ankhi Das, Facebook's public policy director for India, steps down after content row

Facebook's public policy director for India, South and Central Asia, Ankhi Das, has stepped down to pursue interests in public service, the company said in a statement on Tuesday.

"Ankhi has decided to step down from her role in Facebook to pursue her interest in public service. 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 9 years," Ajit Mohan, Managing Director India of Facebook, said in an e-mailed statement.

The resignation comes weeks after Facebook and Das faced questions internally from employees over how political content is regulated in its biggest market, India.

Facebook and Das drew criticism from left-leaning opposition lawmakers after The Wall Street Journal newspaper in August reported that she opposed applying hate-speech restrictions to some Hindu nationalist individuals and groups, fearing damage to Facebook's business prospects.

After the article, Facebook India head Ajit Mohan defended Das and the company's policies in an internal community post seen by Reuters.

The WSJ "article does not reflect the person I know or the extraordinarily complex issues we face everyday that benefits from Ankhi and the Public Policy team's expertise," Mohan wrote.

Das was called by a Joint Committee of Parliament last week where she was grilled about political content on the social media platform as well as Facebook's stand on data protection bill.

She was questioned for two hours and asked some tough and searching questions by the panel members from across the political spectrum, sources said.

During the meeting, a member suggested that the social media platform should not draw inferences from the data of its users for commercial benefit of its advertisers or for electoral purposes, they said.

The MPs also sought to know the revenue Facebook generates from India and what percentage of the revenue is spent on safeguards for data protection, sources told PTI.

The panel also asked how much tax the social media giant pays in India, they said.

During the meeting, concerns were also raised about the allegations that majority of the employees of the social media giant in the United States were inclined towards one specific political party of the country.

Meanwhile, Facebook said that the data protection law has potential to propel the country's digital economy and global digital trade.

Last month, Ajit Mohan had appeared before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information and Technology headed by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, on the alleged misuse of social media platforms.

The panel had called Facebook to hear about a report published in the Wall Street Journal claiming that the social media platform ignored applying its hate-speech rules in India.

Recently, the company announced appointment of Sunil Abraham as the Public Policy Director for Data and Emerging Tech to lead and shape the company's stance on tech policy issues in India.

Das was considered among India's most influential corporate lobbying executives and had been central to Facebook's rise in India since joining the company in 2011.

With inputs from PTI

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