Three months after she was acussed of not applying hate speech rules to posts by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members, Facebook India’s policy head Ankhi Das has resigned.
A statement released on Tuesday evening by Ajith Mohan, Facebook India’s Managing Director, said, “Ankhi has decided to step down from her role… to pursue her interest in public service… We are grateful for her service and wish her the very best for the future.”
In his statement, Mohan said Das played an “instrumental role in the growth of the company and its services over the last nine years” and having made “enormous contributions.”
In a message to her colleagues, Das recounted the earlier days of Facebook and the internet ecosystem in India when she joined the company in 2011. “We were a small unlisted startup back then guided only by our mission and purpose to connect people in India. After nine long years, I feel that mission has largely been met,” she wrote.
“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,” she added.
Das is also believed to have said that her departure was not related to recent stories in the press. Das said she was leaving the company to pursue her interest in public service.
Das was on Friday (October 23) quizzed by the Joint Committee on the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 for nearly two hours.
Facebook India’s and Das’ troubles mounted after the social media giant got embroiled in back-to-back controversies with the Central government and the Delhi Government.
In August, Das had to offer an apology to its Muslim employees for a post she had shared last year, which was Islamophobic. Commenting on the now-deleted post, she had said that her intention was not to hurt the sentiments of the religion, rather, it was to reflect her deep belief in “celebrating feminism and civic participation.”
While the Indian National Congress (INC) had written a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg demanding a high-level inquiry into the allegations, the peace and harmony committee of the Delhi Legislative Assembly, dominated by members of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), had initiated a probe into the hateful content on Facebook which allegedly fuelled discontent during the Delhi riots in February this year.
The controversy sparked by the Wall Street Journal against Facebook India took an interesting turn in last month when Union Law Minister, and a member of the ruling BJP Ravi Shankar Prasad, in a strongly worded letter to Zuckerberg alleging that employees of the social media platform were “abusing” the Prime Minister of India, as well as several cabinet ministers on-record, and called the incident “problematic”.
“It is doubly problematic when the bias of the individual becomes an inherent bias of the platform. And it is unacceptable when political biases of individuals impinge on the freedom of speech of individuals,” the letter read. No specific instances of Facebook employees “abusing” Modi or other cabinet ministers were cited in the letter.