Ankhi Das, Facebook India Policy Director, Quits Company

Ankhi Das With Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Image from Ankhi Das' Facebook profile

Ankhi Das, Public policy director for Facebook India, south, and central Asia has stepped down from her position. Her decision comes weeks after she and the company were questioned by a Parliamentary panel regarding data security.

In a statement, Ajit Mohan, head of Facebook India said that “Ankhi has decided to step down from her role in Facebook to pursue her interest in public service”. Ankhi Das worked with Facebook for 9 years and was part of the company’s leadership team for the last 2 years.

Das’ resignation in itself is a surprise, her replacement is of much more interest. According to a report by Time, Shivnath Thukral has temporarily replaced Ms. Das. Mr. Thukral, currently WhatsApp’s Public policy director in the country, worked on behalf of the BJP during the 2014 elections.

Ankhi Das, Facebook’s Recent Controversy

For those unfamiliar with the matter, Ankhi Das was involved in a report by the Wall Street Journal in August, regarding the company’s moderation policies in India. The report accused Facebook and Ankhi Das of slackening hate-speech rules in favor of the ruling BJP government.

The report quoted internal communications from Facebook India, where Ms. Das was saying that “Punishing violations by politicians from Modi’s party would damage the company’s business prospects in the country.” Facebook denied the reports and stated it is unbiased in stopping hate speech.

Yet the company took backlash from senior members of major political parties in India. Even the ruling party’s IT Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad said that Facebook was suppressing the reach of right-leaning pages. However, the ruling party members who had posted hate content were later flagged as “dangerous” by Facebook and were permanently blocked from the platform.

A while ago, Ankhi Das represented Facebook before a Parliamentary panel about the Personal Data Protection Bill. Her resignation followed soon after. While the questioning was unrelated to the reports, the panel raised questions about Facebook’s political content moderation in India. Facebook has over 300 million users in India, which is its biggest market by users.

Stepping down from her post, Ankhi Das said “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.”

Facebook and its politicization never cease to amaze. With Ms. Das resigning, Facebook has replaced her with an ex-BJP campaigner, amidst allegations of slackening its moderation rules to favor the ruling BJP.

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