"No One Has That Power...": Facebook India Head On BJP Hate Speech Row

Ajit Mohan spoke about the controversy surrounding Facebook's former Public Policy Director Ankhi Das who quit last year.

Ajit Mohan also detailed the company's stand on India's new IT rules.

New Delhi:

Facebook enforces its policies in a non-partisan, objective manner, the chief of the company's India operations told NDTV on Friday, rejecting reports that had said a top executive had vetoed action against a leader of the ruling BJP responsible for hate speech given its business considerations.

"When it comes to limiting hate speech or speech calling for violence, we are pretty clear and we are transparent in articulating our community guidelines on what is allowed on our platforms and what is not," Ajit Mohan, Facebook Vice President and India Managing Director, told NDTV in an interview.

"No one individual in the company has the power to essentially say 'you should not do enforcement of our policy'. I think that was what was flawed about the characterisation of internal conversations was that the process is for multiple voices to feed in and to give more context about the things that are happening," he said.

Mr Mohan was speaking about the controversy surrounding its former Public Policy Director Ankhi Das who quit last year, two months after a Wall Street Journal report said she had a role in the social network giving a free pass to a BJP leader accused of giving a hate speech. The leader was banned by Facebook a few weeks after the report came and led to a backlash within and outside the company.

Mr Mohan, however, maintained that the report did not influence Facebook's decision, saying "In a world where conversations that are in progress get exposed, it's easy to assume that something happened because of internal conversations being leaked. But I disagree with [the suggestion that doing what is right is not Facebook's best interests]."

"I don't think anyone wants hate speech on our platforms. I don't think it's in our interests for users to be exposed to hate speech... Our financial incentive is very biased in favour of doing the right thing on our platform," he said.

Mr Mohan also detailed the company's stand on India's new IT Rules that have prompted a legal challenge by WhatsApp – a company owned by Facebook even though the social networking giant has largely welcomed the rules.

"Across our family of apps, we have made it clear that we respect Indian law. And we signalled that when the rules came, we were going to try and comply. Except for the one area around traceability on WhatsApp and even there what we have done is use the legal framework in India to ask the courts the question in terms of what is the implication of traceability and we clearly have a disagreement there," he said.

"But even when we were disagreeing with one particular element, you will see that WhatsApp itself has complied with many other elements of the new rules that were introduced. We do believe that there is a particular question on encryption and privacy that requires clarification from the courts," Mr Mohan said.

"We made it clear we were aligned with the idea agenda of enhancing user safety, we respect Indian law. The Internet will benefit from greater clarity by the new rules," he added.