FIR filed against Facebook executive Ankhi Das and two others in Chhattisgarh

Published : August 18, 2020 18:49 IST

Ankhi Das, Director, Facebook India. Photo: The Hindu Archives

Ankhi Das, Facebook India’s Director, Public Policy, India, South and Central Asia, has been named in a first information report (FIR) for “inciting communal animosity”. The Chhattisgarh Police said the FIR was filed today after a complaint by Awesh Tiwari, a Raipur-based journalist. This comes at a time when there is a raging debate going on in social media about Facebook’s role in allowing hate propaganda peddled by the right wing to be publised on its site.

Tiwari said in his complaint dated August 16 that he was facing harassment by two social media users, Ram Sahu from Mungeli in Chhattisgarh and Vivek Sinha of Indore in Madhya Pradesh, after he posted an article published in The Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

According to Tiwari, the two Facebook users jumped in to defend Ankhi Das, saying that as a Hindu she was defending her faith. Sahu allegedly threatened Awesh Tiwari and posted communally sensitive photographs.

Earlier, the WSJ’s article, titled “Facebook’s Hate Speech Rules Collide With Indian Politics”, seriously questioned the impartiality of Facebook India, alleging that the social media platform was loath to remove anti-Muslim posts as it did not want to upset the Modi government. The article snowballed into a political controversy with social media platforms inundated with views for and against it.

Rahul Gandhi, senior Congress leader, wrote on Twitter: “We cannot allow any manipulation of our hard-earned democracy through bias, fake news & hate speech. As exposed by @WSJ, Facebook’s involvement in peddling fake and hate news needs to be questioned by all Indians”.

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said the parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, which he heads, may summon Facebook over the report.

Speaking to a news portal, Awesh Tiwari also accused Facebook of arbitrarily censoring posts in which he took a critical position against the government’s policies. “As a journalist for over 25 years it is my duty to ask questions,” he said. Tiwari alleged that Ankhi Das, Ram Sahu and Vivek Sinha have endangered his life by trying to defame him besides spreading religious hatred.

The three accused have been booked under 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 offence against any other class or community); 506 (criminal intimidation); 500 (defamation); and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code.

Ankhi Das, too, lodged an FIR against Awesh Tiwari with the Delhi Police’s cyber cell on August 16. She said she was facing death threats after the WSJ article went viral.