Ankhi Das and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
One of Facebook’s top executives in India wants the police to investigate death threats and abuse she received on the social network after a message revealed she intervened to suppress anti-Muslim hate speech by politicians in India’s ruling Bharatiya To keep Jana’s party online.
On Monday, Ankhi Das, Facebook’s director of public order in India, South and Central Asia, filed a police report in New Delhi identifying six Facebook and Twitter accounts that she said were threatening them , and ordered the police to arrest the people behind the accounts and provide them with protection.
The move came after the Wall Street Journal reported that Das had protected T. Raja Singh, a state-level politician with the BJP, and at least three other Hindu nationalists from punishment for violating Facebook’s hate speech rules. In posts on Facebook, Singh reportedly called for the slaughter of Muslims, leading social network security staff to determine that it should be banned under its “Dangerous Persons and Organizations” policy.
But because Das reportedly found that punishing BJP officials would be bad for business, Singh was allowed to continue using the platform.
That didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The claims of Facebook’s preferential treatment of the Conservative Party of India come after BuzzFeed News reported that its colleagues on the company’s policy team intervened to prevent right-wing organizations in the US from being penalized for sharing misinformation. These reports outraged Facebook employees, who asked CEO Mark Zuckerberg why executives like Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s vice president of global public order and Das’ boss, helped conservative sites like Breitbart News and PragerU circumvent their rules.
While Kaplan was already under pressure, Das – who has been on Facebook since 2011 – is now being checked. On Tuesday, members of the Congress Party, India’s main opposition, wrote a letter to Zuckerberg requesting an investigation into the company’s activities in India. Members of the Aam Aadmi party, which rules Delhi, said they would urge Das and other Facebook executives to question them about the journal’s report.
This investigation could expand nationally: On Sunday Shashi Tharoor, a member of the Congress Party and chairman of the parliamentary committee on information technology in India, tweeted that the committee “would certainly like to hear from Facebook”.
In addition to threats on Twitter, Das has also become the subject of abuse on Facebook’s own platforms.
“I have received violent threats to my life and body since the evening of August 14, 2020.”
“I have received violent threats to my life and body since the evening of August 14, 2020, and I am extremely concerned about the relentless harassment inflicted on me by the defendants,” Das wrote in her police complaint. “The content, including my photo, is obviously a threat to my life and body, and I fear for my safety and that of my family members. The content also slanders my reputation based on a news article and I’m attribution, cyber bullying and [sexual harassment] on-line.”
By Tuesday morning, some of the tweets appeared to have been deleted, but some of the Facebook accounts behind the abuse were still active. Das Instagram account has also been targeted by people demanding that she be hanged.
“Even women’s rights groups and feminists won’t be able to save you if you don’t improve,” one of the threats on Facebook said in Hindi.
Anyesh Roy, Cybercrime Director of the Delhi Police Department, did not respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.
Facebook spokesman Andy Stone declined to comment on the story, but shared an earlier testimony that didn’t specifically mention that.
“We prohibit hate speech and content that incites violence and enforce these guidelines worldwide regardless of political position or party affiliation,” he said.
This is one of the leaders on Facebook outside of the US and is closely associated with the BJP. With more than 300 million users, Das can monitor one of the company’s most important and populous markets. In a 2016 Guardian article on Facebook’s controversial Internet access program, Free Basics, which India banned in 2016 for violating net neutrality, it was described as “unusually accessible in Delhi’s power corridors.”
Former employees who worked directly with Das in the past and did not want to be named described her to BuzzFeed News as a “tough boss”. That and her team worked almost independently from the rest of the company in the country for years, reportedly working on a collection of suites valued at $ 40,000 a month at a five-star hotel in central Delhi, miles from Facebook’s Indian headquarters away the city of Gurgaon.
“She’s a strong personality,” a person familiar with Das told BuzzFeed News. “She may not be the easiest boss to work with, but I think her words carry good weight in the company.”
“She is actively involved in Facebook’s business decisions in India,” said another person familiar with Das’s work.
People close to Das, speaking to BuzzFeed News on condition of anonymity, said keeping politicians happy was part of their job.
“Facebook must not work in India if it goes against the government.”
“Unlike the US, it is not possible to stand up against the government and let your business survive,” one of them said. “A Ben & Jerry can be open about Trump and still not be involved in crazy lawsuits or have their CEO arrested. As broken as this country may be, the rule of law is still strong there. Facebook is not allowed to work in India if it goes against the government. “
“That is,” they added, “I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed with what happened.”
Part of the anger directed at Das stems from the fact that she also shared anti-Muslim content on her own Facebook page. The Journal reported on Friday that Das re-published a post by Najmul Hoda, a former police officer, calling Indian Muslims a “degenerate community” for “nothing but the purity of religion and the implementation of the Sharia issue “.
The post “spoke to me last night,” wrote Das last December on Facebook. “As it should [the] Rest of India. “
BuzzFeed News noted that this wasn’t the only anti-Muslim post she shared from Hoda. In April, the former police officer wrote a long note indicating that the Muslim community is “acting responsibly” to prevent the coronavirus from spreading in the country. While the post did not include specific cases of misinformation linking Muslims to the pandemic, it came around the same time as far-right Indian politicians and news networks slandered Indian Muslims for spreading the virus and sparked a wave of anti-Muslim hate speech in the country .
“Najmul Hoda – thank you for being a voice of sanity and sanity,” wrote Das after reposting his note on their page, which includes a cover picture of himself talking to Zuckerberg. “Hopefully this will lead to the right kind of awakening and voluntary collective action to thwart this epidemiological nightmare.”