Facebook India Policy Head Ankhi Das, resigned from the Company months after her name came up in a controversy over alleged bias by the social networking giant in dealing with hate speeches. Facebook India acknowledging Das’ resignation, said she played an instrumental role in the growth of 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.”
In August, articles by The Wall Street Journal and TIME magazine – alleged Facebook (and messaging service WhatsApp) 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”.
The articles set off a fierce row between the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress, with Rahul Gandhi and others citing them as evidence that the social media was being manipulated by the government. Facebook was also called before a parliamentary panel chaired by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor. Last week Ms Das appeared before a parliamentary panel over another matter – concerns over data privacy – and was questioned for nearly two hours. 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.
Ankhi Das will be replaced by Shivnath Thukral who was the managing director of Carnegie India. In a message to her colleagues, Das recounted the early days of Facebook and the internet ecosystem in India when she joined the company in 2011. “We were a small unlisted startup back then guided only by our mission and purpose to connect people in India. After nine long years, I feel that mission has largely been met,” she wrote.
“There is an enormous amount I have learnt from incredibly smart and talented people in the company, particularly from people on the policy team. 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,” added Das, who was one of the first employees of Facebook in India.