By Arré Bench Aug. 17, 2020
After a report in the Wall Street Journal suggested that Facebook ignored hate speech by Indian politicians in favour of business prospects in India, social media ganged up on an executive of the company. Ankhi Das of Facebook India says she has received “threats against her body and life through online posting/publishing of content”.
Social media giant Facebook was dragged into a raging political debate back home this week. After a report in the Wall Street Journal on Friday suggested that hate speech by Indian politicians and groups was ignored in favour of business prospects in the country, the opposition Congress went all out on Twitter, alleging that the BJP and RSS control Facebook and WhatsApp in the country.
BJP & RSS control Facebook & Whatsapp in India.
They spread fake news and hatred through it and use it to influence the electorate.
Finally, the American media has come out with the truth about Facebook. pic.twitter.com/Y29uCQjSRP
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) August 16, 2020
The BJP, in turn, chose to remind the Congress of the Cambridge Analytica controversy from a few years ago, and said they were not in position to point fingers.
Losers who cannot influence people even in their own party keep cribbing that the entire world is controlled by BJP & RSS.
You were caught red-handed in alliance with Cambridge Analytica & Facebook to weaponise data before the elections & now have the gall to question us? https://t.co/NloUF2WZVY
— Ravi Shankar Prasad (@rsprasad) August 16, 2020
As the political back and forth continued through the weekend, meanwhile, one Facebook executive in Delhi said she was bearing the worst brunt of the report.
In what’s becoming all too common in this country, Ankhi Das, the public policy director of Facebook India says she has been on the receiving end of “threats against her body and life through online posting/publishing of content”.
The Public Policy Head of Facebook India files a police complaint under Sections 354A, 499, 500, 506, 507, 509 of IPC.
— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) August 17, 2020
Das, who says the threats are related to the WSJ article that was published on August 14, approached the Delhi police cyber cell on Sunday night. In the article, Das was quoted as being “opposed to applying hate speech rules” against groups and individuals linked with the politicians, despite the fact that these posts were flagged for promoting violence.
The article goes on to add that the Facebook executive had warned that punishing these politicians and groups would damage the company’s business prospects in the country.
Facebook’s Hate-Speech Rules Collide With Indian Politics
— Rana Ayyub (@RanaAyyub) August 15, 2020
In her complaint, however, Das says that the report was “published in a mischaracterised and distorted manner” by several publications and on social media. She has also included Facebook and Twitter handles of those who have been sending her violent threats.
“The content also maligns my reputation. I am subjected to name-calling, cyber bullying and eve-teasing online,” Das said, adding that the accused have vilified her on the basis of their respective political affiliations.
These political affiliations have led to a strident debate on social media over the weekend, with both the Congress and the BJP at loggerheads over the implications of the report.
Member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor, who leads the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology said on Twitter that he would like to hear Facebook’s views on the matter.
. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology would certainly wish to hear from @Facebook about these reports & what they propose to do about hate-speech in India.
— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) August 16, 2020
But while the two political parties hash things out, there is obviously no justification for the threats that were allegedly made to the life of the Facebook executive. With the WSJ report continuing to raise hackles back home, hopefully action is taken against those responsible for the threats as well.