FB accused of bias towards BJP; India head alleges threat

FB accused of bias towards BJP; India head alleges threat
Ankhi Das (File)
NEW DELHI, AUG 17 (AGENCIES) | Publish Date: 8/17/2020 12:53:04 PM IST

 Public policy director of Facebook India, South and Central Asia, Ankhi Das, has filed a complaint with the Delhi Police against a number of people who allegedly issued “violent threats” to her online.

Ankhi Das, the Facebook public policy director for India, in a written complaint to the Delhi Police, claimed that she has been receiving “violent threats against my life and body”.

In her complaint, Das mentioned Facebook and Twitter accounts that had allegedly threatened her as a result of the WSJ article.

The Facebook executive said that these threats came after a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article on August 14 said that the platform had failed to take action against posts by BJP MLA Raja Singh, although the post fell under Facebook’s hate speech rules and had been marked as dangerous.

An August 14 article published in the WSJ claims that Das was opposed to applying Facebook’s hate speech rules to four individuals and groups with links to BJP. The article stated that despite being internally flagged for promoting violence, she was against applying the rules due to business imperatives.

The report says that Ankhi Das opposed applying hate speech rules to the BJP’s T Raja Singh out of fear of ruining the company’s relationship with the ruling party. Raja Singh is the BJP’s lone MLA in Telangana assembly and is notorious for making communally provocative statements. WSJ quoting unnamed current and former company officials said Das, whose job also includes lobbying India’s government on Facebook’s behalf, told staff members that punishing violations by politicians from Modi’s party would damage the company’s business prospects in the country…”

According to WSJ, Das’s team also took “no action” after BJP politicians posted content accusing Muslims of intentionally spreading the coronavirus, plotting against the nation and making a noise about “love jihad”. In addition to this, unnamed former employees quoted by WSJ claim that Das had also provided the BJP with “favourable treatment on election-related issues”.

“In April of last year, days before voting began in India’s general election, Facebook announced it had taken down inauthentic pages tied to Pakistan’s military and the Congress party. But it didn’t disclose it also removed pages with false news tied to BJP, because Ms. Das intervened,” the report said, quoting unnamed former Facebook employees. While BJP accused the social media giant of censoring nationalist voices, opposition Congress seized on WSJ report that alleged that Facebook’s content policies favour the ruling party.

Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology has stated that it will look into the WSJ report. “I will certainly look into the issue and the committee will seek the views of Facebook,” committee chairman Shashi Tharoor told The Indian Express.

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