This Article is From Oct 27, 2020

Facebook's Ankhi Das Quits Days After Parliamentary Panel Questioning

The resignation comes weeks after Facebook and Ankhi Das faced questions from employees and the centre over moderation of political content on its platforms

Ankhi Das has resigned from her position as public policy chief for Facebook India (File)

New Delhi:

Facebook executive Ankhi Das, whose name came up in a recent controversy over alleged bias by the social networking giant in dealing with hate speeches, has resigned from the company.

A statement by Ajit Mohan, Facebook India's Managing Director, said: "Ankhi has decided to step down 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 nine years. She has been a part of my leadership team over the last two 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."

Ms Das' resignation comes weeks after both the company and she faced questions - both internally from employees and from the Indian government - over how political content is regulated on the popular social media platform, which boasts over 300 million users in the country.

In August, articles by The Wall Street Journal and TIME magazine - alleged Facebook (and messaging service WhatsApp, which it owns) did not apply hate speech rules uniformly. Speeches by BJP leaders that circulated widely on these platforms ahead of the February violence in Delhi were cited.

The Journal also said that an executive - who was later identified as Ms Das - suggested to the company that punishing such violations by BJP workers "would damage (its) business prospects".

According to a second report by the Journal Ms Das also "made internal postings over several years" detailing her support for the ruling BJP and disparaging its main rival - behaviour some staff saw as conflicting with the company's pledge to remain neutral in elections around the world.

Facebook has insisted it applies hate speech rules uniformly and without consideration to political parties that may be involved, and that the posts by Ms Das do not show inappropriate bias.

"These posts are taken out of context and don't represent the full scope of Facebook's efforts to support the use of our platform by parties across the political spectrum," a spokesperson said.

The articles set off a fierce row between the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress, with Rahul Gandhi and others citing them as evidence social media was being manipulated by the government. An incensed Congress also wrote, twice, to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook was called before a parliamentary panel chaired by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, but instead of Ms Das Mr Mohan turned up to field questions. The company was also summoned by the Peace and Harmony committee of the Delhi Assembly, but did not appear.

Last week Ms Das appeared before a parliamentary panel over another matter - concerns over data privacy - and was questioned for nearly two hours, sources told NDTV.

Facebook was told that it cannot use the personal data of citizens for "inferential" purposes in advertising or business or elections. MPs across parties reportedly asked specific questions on what percentage of Facebook's revenue is spent on safeguards for data protection.