The head of public policy at Facebook India is leaving the company to venture into public policy. The timing of the resignation is suspicious, considering she was found to be pushing back against Facebook’s demands to censor content from India’s ruling party.
The company announced the resignation of Ankhi Das on Tuesday.
“Ankhi has decided to step down from her role in Facebook to pursue her interest in public service. 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,” Facebook India’s Vice President Ajit Mohan said in a statement.
Mohan added that Das “has been a part of my leadership team over the last two years, a role in which she has made enormous contributions.”
On her part, Das said, “I have decided to step down from Facebook after long service to its mission of connecting people and building communities to pursue my personal interest in public service.”
On August 14, Das became the subject of controversy after the Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook India’s executives did not apply Facebook’s censorship policies on members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), India’s ruling party. Some of the BJP members posted content that supposedly violated Facebook’s policies on “misinformation”, “hate speech”, and “incitement to violence.”
According to the WSJ report’s sources, Das was against censorship and “told staff members that punishing violations by politicians from Mr. Modi’s party would damage the company’s business prospects in the country.”
Following the report, critics accused Facebook of an “unholy nexus” with India’s ruling party. Additionally, Das was harassed so much that she had to file a police complaint.
Shortly after the WSJ report’s allegations, India’s Union IT Minister, Ravi Prasad, wrote a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, accusing Facebook India of censoring and suppressing people with the right-of-center ideology.
The resignation also shortly comes after the Joint Parliamentary Committee questioned her about the personal data protection Bill of 2019. Reports indicate that Das was asked how much money Facebook spends on data safety and how much profit the company is making in India. However, the law is controversial as it gives the government the authority to ask tech companies for anonymous personal and non-personal data.