Over the past several weeks, there has been an increasing clamour for Facebook to place its India public policy head, Ankhi Das, on leave as the company continues with an audit of its India operations.
The impetus for the audit was an article written by the Wall Street Journal in mid-August. In that piece, WSJ reported that Das had resisted against taking down inflammatory content that eventually sparked rioting in the capital city of Delhi as it was posted by members of the nationalist BJP party.
The riots left over fifty dead, most of whom were Muslims. It also led to many of these Muslims’ homes being torched.
“The company’s top public-policy executive in the country, Ankhi Das, opposed applying the hate-speech rules to [T Raja] Singh and at least three other Hindu nationalist individuals and groups flagged internally for promoting or participating in violence,” WSJ reported.
These inflammatory posts were reportedly only taken down months after the riots had already occured, and only when the paper approached the company for a statement.
One of the BJP politicians, Raja Singh, reportedly said that Rohingya Muslim refugees should be “shot”, and had labelled Indian Muslims as traitors while also threatening to destroy their mosques. Singh, who has enshrined a reputation for these kinds of comments, has since denied these allegations and claimed his account was hacked.
The audit was initiated when a group of 54 retired civil servants wrote to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about the WSJ revelation. This call for an audit was then reiterated by a jointly-written letter to Facebook by global civil rights organisations such as the Southern Law Poverty Center, Muslim Advocates, and other organisations in countries such as the UK, US, and New Zealand.
“The audit must be removed entirely from the influence of the India