Wall Street Journal on Friday reported that Facebook in India did not apply its hate speech policy and didn't restrict inflammatory posts on its platform during the 2019 general election and thereafter.
The WSJ in its report said that Facebook allowed misleading and inflammatory posts by the BJP ministers and party sympathisers stay put on its platform.
Facebook India allowed hate speech by BJP ministers
The report mentions inflammatory posts by Telangana BJP minister T Raja, Delhi BJP minister Kapil Mishra, and Anant Kumar Hegde, which were misleading and hate-filled against Muslims were not taken down by Facebook or put up with any warning message even when the content in the posts went against company's hate speech policy.
The WSJ reports the Facebook executives in India didn't take down T Raja's post even when by company's standard T Raja was designated "dangerous"-a category that takes into account a person off-platform activities and his/her ability to spark real-world violence.
The non-application of the company's hate speech policy in India and letting the inflammatory posts on its platform, the WSJ reports, was done on the behest of Facebook's public policy director for India, South and Central Asia, Ankhi Das.
WSJ in its report says that despite Facebook executives pointing out these hatred messages by BJP ministers, Das didn't allow action against them because, she is reported to have said, doing so would jeopardise Facebook's business prospects in India.
Ankhi Das "opposed applying the hate-speech rules to Singh and at least three other Hindu nationalist individuals and groups flagged internally for promoting or participating in violence," The Wall Street Journal said in its report.
Who is Ankhi Das?
A graduate from JNU, Ankhi Das joined Facebook in 2011.
She herself wrote an article in 2014 lauding Prime Minister Narendra Modi on finding the connection with the masses and harnessing the power of Facebook. Her article is available on Narendra Modi's personal website.
But what she didn't mention in the article was that she herself was instrumental in providing information and guidance to the BJP IT cell in perfecting it's social media strategy ahead of the general election.
Her alleged association with Facebook came at a time when BJP was searching for its footing and striving to make its way to make the government at the Centre. BJP was looking for a way through which it could connect with the masses and the advent of social media, especially Facebook, in the country provided the party with the platform it needed.
BJP used social media efficiently and won the 2014 general election. It even applauded itself for using social media for its advantage and winning the election.
"Ankhi never said No to BJP campaign"
According to a report in The Guardian, the mano who ran Modi' social media operation said that '"Facebook was extraordinarily responsive to requests from the campaign and that Das "never said no" to any information the campaign wanted."'
The information that the BJP campaign received helped them plan their online strategy to be implemented on Facebook and elsewhere.
Her position at Facebook was not only helpful to the BJP but she, in her capacity as FB's public policy director, was also helping Facebook expand its business in India.
Ankhi spearheaded lobby for Internet.org for Facebook
In 2015, when Facebook was trying to bring in the internet.org and the discussion over net neutrality were impeding Mark Zuckerberg's effort, Ankhi spearheaded Facebook lobbying mission with the BJP government at the centre.
Although under activists and public pressure Zuckerberg's brainchild couldn't succeed in India, Facebook executives credited Ankhi with whatever headway the company was able to make was because of her efforts. "We used to joke that it was like she was Modi's granddaughter" Guardian reported a Facebook executive say on Ankhi's uncommonly good access in Delhi's corridors of power.
Ankhi's sister Rashmi Das's BJP connection
Interestingly, Ankhi's BJP connection is not limited through her position at Facebook. Her sister Rashmi Das was the former President of the BJP's student wing ABVP at JNU. An ardent BJP supporter, Rashmi Das is also a writer and columnist. Most recently, in April, she wrote an article on Facebook- Reliance partnership praising the Facebook-JIO deal.
Ankhi Das files police complaint; here's why
A top Facebook executive in India has filed a police complaint in New Delhi saying she is receiving death threats following a media report that said she and the U.S. social network company allegedly favored Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling party.
Ankhi Das, Facebook's top public-policy executive in India, in her complaint to Delhi police said some individuals online had "intentionally vilified" her due to their political affiliations and were engaging in abuse, Indian media reported.