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NEW DELHI/BENGALURU (Reuters) – Facebook (FB.O) and its prime lobbying government in India, Ankhi Das, are dealing with questions internally from employees over how political content is regulated in its greatest market, based on sources with direct information and inner posts seen by Reuters.
Ankhi Das, Facebook’s Public Policy Director for India, South & Central Asia, is seen on her Facebook web page on this illustration image taken August 19, 2020. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/Illustration NO ARCHIVES. NO RESALES.
The world’s largest social community is battling a public-relations and political disaster in India after the Wall Street Journal reported that Das opposed making use of the corporate’s hate-speech guidelines to a politician from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s celebration who had in posts known as Muslims traitors.
In the United States and around the globe, Facebook employees are elevating questions on whether or not enough procedures and content regulation practices have been being adopted by the India staff, sources aware of discussions advised Reuters.
An open letter written to Facebook’s management by 11 employees on one inner platform, and seen by Reuters, calls for firm leaders acknowledge and denounce “anti-Muslim bigotry” and guarantee extra policy consistency.
The letter additionally demanded 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,” mentioned the letter. “The Muslim community at Facebook would like to hear from Facebook leadership on our asks.”
Facebook and Das didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.
Facebook has been underneath hearth in recent times for its lax strategy to pretend information content, state-backed disinformation campaigns and violent content unfold by way of its platforms.
The WSJ article mentioned Das had advised workers that making use of hate-speech guidelines to politicians near Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) “would damage the company’s business prospects in the country.”
Following the report, in response to Reuters queries on the matter, Facebook mentioned it prohibits hate speech that incites violence and enforces insurance policies with out regard to political place or celebration affiliation.
“While we know there is more to do, we’re making progress on enforcement and conduct regular audits,” mentioned the corporate, which has greater than 300 million customers in India.
One of the sources mentioned Facebook’s India management should reply powerful questions on what actually occurred, “There will be scrutiny on what really went down.”
A second supply aware of the reactions mentioned Facebook employees have been discussing whether or not there needs to be strict separation between authorities relations and content policy groups, and there may be “an internal debate happening about the (content moderation) processes.”
After the article, Facebook India head Ajit Mohan defended Das, whose title is Director, Public Policy, India, South & Central Asia, and the corporate’s insurance policies in an inner neighborhood submit, additionally seen by Reuters.
The WSJ “article does not reflect the person I know or the extraordinarily complex issues we face everyday that benefits from Ankhi and the Public Policy team’s expertise,” Mohan wrote.
Mohan additionally wrote the corporate is “confident that the article’s claim that political affiliations influence decision making in India is inaccurate and without merit.”
A spokesman for the WSJ didn’t reply to a request for remark.
India’s opposition Congress Party has known as for a parliamentary probe into Facebook, whereas BJP lawmakers in flip have accused Facebook of censoring nationalist voices.
Das, 49, is taken into account amongst India’s most influential company lobbying executives and has been central to Facebook’s rise in India since becoming a member of the corporate in 2011.
“She has created a niche for herself (in India),” mentioned an individual who has labored carefully with Das on policy points.
One former Facebook government in Asia and a former Indian authorities official described Das as very sharp and politically related. A second former worker mentioned Das has all the time been outspoken about points within the firm.
Das hasn’t commented on the controversy, however her sister Rashmi, who has publicly acknowledged her personal ties to a scholar wing near the BJP, advised the India Today TV on Tuesday, “we sisters are made of very stern stuff.”
“I’m sure Ankhi will handle it very competently,” she mentioned.
Reporting by Aditya Kalra in New Delhi and Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru; Editing by Euan Rocha and Nick Zieminski