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Facebook India policy head quits after row over content

Facebook India acknowledged Das’s resignation and said she played an instrumental role in the growth of the company.

Updated: Oct 28, 2020, 08:16 IST

By Deeksha Bhardwaj, Hindustan Times New Delhi

Ankhi will be replaced by Shivnath Thukral who was the managing director of Carnegie India. (LinkedIn/Ankhi Das)

Facebook’s South Asia public policy director Ankhi Das resigned from her post on Tuesday, the social media company said, weeks after the executive emerged at the centre of a controversy for purportedly acting in a politically partisan manner to aid BJP. Das, who also headed Facebook’s public policy team in India, was accused by company insiders of having intervened to block action against a Telangana BJP leader for his Islamophobic comments. Her resignation on Tuesday did not appear to be connected to the controversy, in which Facebook has denied any wrongdoing. “I have decided to step down from Facebook after long service to its mission of connecting people and building communities to pursue my personal interest in public service,” Das said in a Facebook post.

Facebook India acknowledged Das’s resignation and said she played an instrumental role in the growth of the company. “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 9 years. She has been a part of my leadership team over the last 2 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,” said Ajit Mohan, Facebook India’s vice president and managing director.

Ankhi will be replaced by Shivnath Thukral who was the managing director of Carnegie India. He also oversees operations, including coordination with Carnegie’s global network and fundraising. The controversy surrounding Das and Facebook began following an August 14 report in the Wall Street Journal. Das, the report said, intervened to stop Telangana BJP MLA T Raja Singh from being banned from the social media site over possible fallout for the company’s business interests in India. Another report on August 30, WSJ said Das had previously disclosed her working with PM Modi and had claimed to have “lit a fire to his social media campaign” before he swept to power in 2014. Weeks after these reports, Singh was banned permanently from Facebook.

The Congress as well as the BJP have accused each other of having a nexus with Facebook. While the Congress seized on the Das controversy to claim that the BJP was forcing companies to allow hate speech to exist, the BJP cited content takedowns to allege a liberal bias that was behind silencing of right-wing voices. Last week Das appeared before a parliamentary panel over another matter - concerns over data privacy.

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