As Facebook India and its public policy executive, Ankhi Das, face increased scrutiny for not pulling down hateful content from the platform, the social media giant’s India vice president and managing director Ajit Mohan has said in an interview that content moderation is enforced by an independent team.
“Public policy 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,” Mohan said in an interview with Mint.
Last month, a story published in The Wall Street Journal, titled “Facebook’s Hate-Speech Rules Collide With Indian Politics”, alleged that the company’s public policy head for India, Ankhi Das, had refused to take down incendiary posts from politicians of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to seek favours from the Indian government.
The story triggered a political storm in India, with two of the biggest political parties in India, the BJP and the Indian National Congress (INC), accusing Facebook of harbouring a bias. While the Congress, in a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, accused the social media giant of pandering to the wishes of the ruling party and called for an internal probe into the matter, Union Law Minister and BJP member Ravi Shankar Prasad, in a separate letter to Zuckerberg, claimed that Facebook was biased against the BJP and the right-of-centre ideology.
Prasad’s letter added that Facebook was trying to spin an alternate narrative through “selective media leaks”, while also accusing the company’s employees of abusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi, without substantiation.
Earlier this month, several civil rights organisations from across the world, in a letter to Facebook CEO Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg, urged the company’s top management to probe the matter, make its findings public and send Ankhi Das on a leave of absence until the probe is complete.
Facebook India’s role in furthering hate speech on its platform is also being probed by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, led by Congress Member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor.
On Tuesday (September 15), Facebook India’s executives skipped a hearing of the Delhi Assembly’s Peace and Harmony Committee, arguing that the company had already deposed before the parliamentary panel and that the subject of moderation of intermediaries lay under the central government’s purview. Accordingly, Facebook India in its reply to the Delhi Assembly committee asked it to withdraw its summons. In response, the committee declared that it would issue another summons, a ‘final warning’ to the social media giant to appear for a deposition.