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Top Facebook India executive quits, but controversy continues

Ankhi Das, Facebook India
(Image credit: DNAIndia)
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Facebook was recently caught in a major political maelstrom with its top executive being accused of politically biased towards India's ruling party when enforcing hate-speech policy on the social media platform.

She has put in his papers. But there is a cloud hovering over the head of her replacement.

Ankhi Das, was in general the face of the company, when it came to liaising with government and its various arms.

Ankhi has quit 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. She has been a part of my leadership team over the last 2 years, a role in which she has made enormous contributions. We are grateful for her service and wish her the very best for the future," Ajit Mohan, the Managing Director of Facebook India said.

Ankhi, who was one of the first employees of Facebook India, was also effusive in a message to her colleagues. “There is an enormous amount I have learnt from incredibly smart and talented people in the company, particularly from people on the policy team. This is a special company and a special group of people. Thank you, Mark for creating something beautiful for the world. I hope I have served you and the company well. I know we will be in touch on Facebook.” 

What's the Ankhi Das controversy all about

Ankhi Das was recently in the line of fire after a Wall Street Journal report claimed that she opposed applying hate-speech restrictions on some groups and individuals perceived to be close to India's ruling dispensation.

The allegation was that Ankhi Das didn't come down on some reported anti-Muslim statements on the social media platform. She desisted from taking action as the groups and individuals were close to India's ruling party, and she feared that any punitive action would cause damage to Facebook's business prospects in India.

India's main opposition party, the Congress, shot off a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg seeking an investigation into the India team and its alleged links with certain political parties. The Congress alleged that the BJP and RSS (India's ruling dispensation) control Facebook and WhatsApp in India.

She and Facebook India's Managing Director both denied the allegations outright. 

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

She also filed a police complaint for harassment and vicious online trolling after the report.

Allegations against Ankhi's successor

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Meanwhile, Time has reported that Shivnath Thukral, WhatsApp’s public policy director, has been asked to take over Das’s duties on an interim basis. This, however, has not been confirmed officially by Facebook.

As it happens, Thukral is also facing flak from critics even before he has taken charge.

He is said to have been part of BJP's election campaign cell in the run up to the 2014 polls.

The implicit suggestion is that Facebook has replaced one ruling party supporter with another. 

Of course, these are just in the realm of allegations.

But still, Facebook India continues to face the ire of critics, whose numbers are increasing by the day.

Balakumar K

Over three decades as a journalist covering current affairs, politics, sports and now technology. Former Editor of News Today, writer of humour columns across publications and a hardcore cricket and cinema enthusiast. He writes about technology trends and suggest movies and shows to watch on OTT platforms.