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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Four days after House hearing, Facebook’s Ankhi Das quits

Das, in a statement to her team members, said she had joined Facebook when it was a “small unlisted start-up” guided by a mission to connect people in India.

By: ENS Economic Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: October 28, 2020 7:14:13 am
Das oversaw the expansion of WhatsApp’s office and operations in India after the global merger.

Facebook’s policy director for India, South and Central Asia Ankhi Das is leaving the firm, a statement issued by the company Tuesday said.

This comes four days after Das had appeared before Parliament’s Joint Committee on the Personal Data Protection Bill which had questioned her on Facebook’s advertisement model, its targeting of audiences, earnings and taxes and its models for data storage and transfer.

“Ankhi has decided to step down from her role in Facebook to pursue her interest in public service,” Ajit Mohan, Facebook’s India Vice President and Managing Director said in a statement.“Ankhi was one of our earliest employees in India and played an instrumental role in the growth of the company and its services over the last nine years. She has been a part of my leadership team over the last two years, a role in which she has made enormous contributions.”

Das, in a statement to her team members, said she had joined Facebook when it was a “small unlisted start-up” guided by a mission to connect people in India. “After nine long years, I feel that the mission has largely been met. There is an enormous amount I have learnt from incredibly smart and talented people in the company, particularly from people on the policy team. This is a special company and a special group of people,” she said.

Also Read | Facebook policy head Ankhi Das alleges threat to life in police complaint

In August, The Wall Street Journal had reported that citing business imperatives, Das had “opposed applying hate-speech rules” to at least four individuals and groups linked with BJP despite the fact that they were “flagged internally for promoting or participating in violence.”

Following this report, the Parliamentary standing committee on information technology, headed by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, sought an explanation from the company.

Days later, Das filed a complaint to the Delhi Police Cyber Cell alleging “relentless harassment,” and “violent threats” against her including “cyber-bullying and eve-teasing online.” Demanding police protection, she alleged that the WSJ article was published in a “mischaracterized and distorted manner.”

On September 1, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad wrote to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg alleging political bias and raising “serious concerns” that Facebook India management had deleted pages and “reduced” the reach of “right-of-centre ideology” supporters before the 2019 general elections.

Also Read | FIR filed against Facebook India public policy director Ankhi Das

Das oversaw the expansion of WhatsApp’s office and operations in India after the global merger. But the commercial roll-out of WhatsApp Pay has been delayed for over two years despite the company saying it adhered to all guidelines issued by Reserve Bank of India as well as other agencies and ministries. Industry analysts say that it was during her term that Facebook India grew into one of the largest media companies in terms of advertising revenue.

Her tenure also saw Facebook invest $5.7 billion in Reliance Industries Limited’s digital business unit Jio Platforms marking the Silicon Valley giant’s formal entry into India’s telecom sector.

India is among the largest markets for Facebook and its instant messaging platform WhatsApp. While Facebook has close to 350 million users in the country, WhatsApp has close to 400 million. Facebook’s picture and short-video sharing platform Instagram has close to 100 million users in India, second only to the US, which has 130 million users.

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