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Home / India / Demand within Facebook to denounce ‘anti-Muslim bigotry’

Demand within Facebook to denounce ‘anti-Muslim bigotry’

An open letter written by 11 employees sought that the social media platform’s 'policy team in India (and elsewhere) includes diverse representation'
Ankhi Das with Mark Zuckerberg
Ankhi Das with Mark Zuckerberg
Source: facebook.com/ankhid

Reuters   |   Bangalore   |   Published 20.08.20, 02:54 AM

Facebook and its top lobbying executive in India, Ankhi Das, are facing questions internally from employees over how political content is regulated in its biggest market, according to sources with direct knowledge and internal posts seen by Reuters.

The world’s largest social network has been battling a public-relations and political crisis in India since The Wall Street Journal reported that Das had opposed applying the company’s hate-speech rules to a BJP legislator who had in posts called Muslims traitors.

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In the US and around the world, Facebook employees are raising questions about whether adequate procedures and content regulation practices were being followed by the India team, sources familiar with the discussions told Reuters.

An open letter written to Facebook’s leadership by 11 employees on one internal platform, and seen by Reuters, demands that company leaders acknowledge and denounce “anti-Muslim bigotry” and ensure more policy consistency.

The letter demands that Facebook’s “policy team in India (and elsewhere) includes diverse representation”.

“It is hard not to feel frustrated and saddened by the incidents reported.… We know we’re not alone in this. Employees across the company are expressing similar sentiment,” the letter says. “The Muslim community at Facebook would like to hear from Facebook leadership on our asks.”

Facebook and Das did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

One of the sources said Facebook’s India leadership would have to answer tough questions on what really happened. “There will be scrutiny on what really went down.”

A second source familiar with the reactions said Facebook employees were discussing whether there should be strict separation between government relations and content policy teams, and that “an internal debate (was) happening about the (content moderation) processes”.

After the article, Facebook India head Ajit Mohan defended Das -- whose title is director, public policy, India, South and Central Asia -- and the company’s policies in an internal community post, also seen by Reuters.

The WSJ “article does not reflect the person I know or the extraordinarily complex issues we face every day that benefits from Ankhi and the public policy team’s expertise”, Mohan wrote.

Mohan also wrote the company was “confident that the article’s claim that political affiliations influence decision-making in India is inaccurate and without merit”.

A spokesman for the WSJ did not respond to a request for comment.

Das, 49, is considered among India’s most influential corporate-lobbying executives and has been central to Facebook’s rise in India since joining the company in 2011.

“She has created a niche for herself (in India),” said a person who has worked closely with Das on policy issues.

A former Facebook executive in Asia and a former Indian government official described Das as very sharp and politically connected. A second former employee said Das had always been outspoken about issues in the company.

Das hasn’t commented on the controversy but her sister Rashmi, who has publicly acknowledged her own ties to a student wing close to the BJP, told the India Today TV on Tuesday: “We sisters are made of very stern stuff. I’m sure Ankhi will handle it very competently."



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