‘Facing threats against my body, life’: Facebook India’s public policy director files complaint after violent reactions to WSJ report

The Delhi Police on Monday registered a case based on a complaint by senior Facebook India executive Ankhi Das that she has been receiving “violent threat to her life”, officials said.

Das, who is Facebook’s Director, Public Policy, India, South and Central Asia, had filed the complaint on Sunday, they said.

Based on the complaint, a case has been registered under relevant sections of the law on Monday and investigation has been taken up by the Cyber Cell of the Delhi Police, said Anil Mittal, Additional PRO (Delhi Police).

A Facebook spokesperson said, “We take the safety and security of our employees seriously and care for their well-being. However, we do not comment on individual employee matters.”

In her complaint, Das alleged that several people were issuing “threats, making sexually coloured remarks and defaming her” through online posts.

According to the complaint, the threats are in relation to an article dated 14 August, 2020 published in The Wall Street Journal. In her complaint, Das stated she has been receiving threats ever since.

“The content, which even includes my photograph is evidently threatening to my life and body and I fear for my safety as well as that of my family members. The content also maligns my reputation based on a news article and I am subjected to name-calling, cyberbullying and eve-teasing online,” she said.
Das alleged that she was intentionally vilified by the accused due to their “political affiliations” and are now engaging in online and offline abuse, subjecting her to “criminal intimidation and making sexually coloured remarks”.

The comments came as the ruling BJP and opposition Congress traded barbs over Facebook’s alleged bias towards the ruling dispensation. Congress cited The Wall Street Journal report to allege that Facebook’s content policies favour the ruling party.

Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate said in a statement, “Facebook’s inaction destabilises our democracy. More often than not, Facebook takes no action and, even worse, allows objectionable content to continue despite it being brought to its notice.”

BJP leaders hit out at the Congress and accused the social media giant of censoring nationalist voices. Tejasvi Surya, a BJP lawmaker and a member of the parliamentary committee on IT, rejected the idea that Facebook was showing favoritism to the governing party, and instead charged it was “censoring pro-India and pro-Hindu voices.”

“There are millions of posts mocking Hindu gods and abusing right-of-center leaders. But Facebook’s advanced algorithms and community standards fail to catch them. However, unsuspecting common people running pro-right-of-center pages are suspended with no right to appeal,” fellow BJP lawmaker Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore wrote in an op-ed in The Indian Express.

Meanwhile, a Facebook spokesperson said that the social media company enforces policies on hate speech “without regard to anyone’s political position or party affiliation”. “We prohibit hate speech and content that incites violence and we enforce these policies globally without regard to anyone’s political position or party affiliation. While we know there is more to do, we’re making progress on enforcement and conduct regular audits of our process to ensure fairness and accuracy,” the spokesperson told ANI.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology said it will look into the report in The Wall Street Journal. “I will certainly look into the issue and the committee will seek the views of Facebook,” committee chairman Shashi Tharoor told The Indian Express. The report added that the committee Secretariat will write to Facebook Monday demanding its explanation and is also likely to summon the social media company.

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