The Public Policy Director of Facebook India, Ankhi Das, along with two others, has been named in a FIR filed by a Raipur-based journalist on Tuesday(August 18, 2020) for allegedly hurting religious sentiments and inciting communal animosity. The other two who have been named in the FIR are Ram Sahu, a resident of Mungeli in Chhattisgarh, and Indore resident Vivek Sinha.
The Chhattisgarh Police has said that the FIR was registered in Raipur based on the complaint of Awesh Tiwari who is the State Bureau Chief of a local news channel. The FIR has alleged that Ankhi Das “pressured her employees to not take down several hate-speech posts prior to the Lok Sabha elections”. He mentions that this was done in order to maintain the company’s commercial interest in India. Tiwari stated that he had put up a post related to an article published in The Wall Street Journal on his Facebook timeline on 16th August. The article talks about Facebook’s bias towards the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) by refusing censorship against hate-speech posts by the BJP leaders. However, the social media giant has contended that its policies are enforced globally without any regard to political affiliation. “There were comments over the facts of the story, which was published in the newspaper (WSJ). I have also mentioned the role of Ankhi Das, which was there in the story. The story mentioned that Das was forcing her subordinates not to remove hate speech posts from Facebook before last year’s Lok Sabha election for political gains. She had told her subordinates that political relations with the government would be affected because of their (the posts) removal”, Tiwari’s complaint said. The complaint also included two Facebook users, with names Sahu and Sinha, who jumped in to defend Das and commented on Tiwari's post stating that Das is a Hindu and that “she is talking in the interest of the faith”. Sahu then allegedly posted derogatory and communally sensitive photographs, even threatened the complainant.
The FIR was registered by Tiwari following a complaint lodged by Delhi Police’s Cyber Cell which included his name on the basis of allegations by Das on Monday. Earlier, the Delhi Police had registered a case based on a complaint by Das, where she said that she has been getting a "violent threat to her life". In the Delhi FIR, Das has alleged that several people were issuing "threats, making sexually colored remarks and defaming her" through online posts. While identifying some Twitter accounts in the complaint, she has claimed that there was a threat to her life. However, Tiwari has denied all the allegations leveled against him in the FIR by Das. He asserted that he has never contacted Das nor has he ever threatened against her. “I do not know why I have been named in the complaint. I got to know about it from other colleagues. This is a very important issue and I had simply posted points from the report that was originally published by the Wall Street Journal”, he added. Senior Superintendent of Police Ajay Yadav in a statement told that an investigation is underway and further action will be taken accordingly. All three have been booked under Indian Penal Code Sections 295(a) (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings), 505(1)(c) (with intent to incite, or which is likely to incite, any class or community of persons to commit an offense against any other class or community), 506 (criminal intimidation), 500 (defamation) and 34 (common intention).