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Posts by Facebook’s Ankhi Das show political bias, says new report

They cover 2012 to 2014 and were made to a group designed for employees in India, says The Wall Street Journal

Even as Facebook is facing criticism over allegations of bias towards the Modi-led government, according to a new report by The Wall Street Journal, the company’s head of policy in India Ankhi Das has over the past years shown support for the BJP via posts in a Facebook group for employees, while disparaging the Opposition.

Stating that some staff saw this behaviour as conflicting with the company’s pledge to remain neutral in elections around the world, the report said in one of the messages, posted the day before the BJP had won the 2014 national elections, Ms. Das, said, “We lit a fire to his social media campaign and the rest is of course history.”

“It’s taken 30 years of grassroots work to rid India of state socialism finally,” she wrote in a separate post on the defeat of the Congress.

The report comes close on the heels of another story by the paper that alleged violation of its own rules for hate-speech by Facebook in India, in favour of some individuals, including those associated with the BJP, after opposition from Ms. Das. The report said Ms. Das had reasoned that punishing violations by politicians from the ruling party “would damage the company’s business prospects in the country”.

Responding to these allegations a week later, Facebook India Vice President and Managing Director Ajit Mohan had said the social network platform is “non-partisan” and denounces hate and bigotry in any form.

“There is no place for hate speech on our platform. We have an impartial approach to dealing with content and are strongly governed by our community standards. We enforce these policies globally without regard to anyone’s political position, party affiliation or religious and cultural belief,” he had said.

As per the latest report, some Facebook employees said the sentiments and actions described by Ms. Das conflicted with the company’s long-standing neutrality pledge.

“The posts cover 2012 to 2014 and were made to a Facebook group designed for employees in India, though it was open to anyone in the company globally who wanted to join. Several hundred Facebook employees were members of the group during those years,” the report said.

It quoted Facebook’s spokesman Andy Stone as saying, “These posts are taken out of context and don’t represent the full scope of Facebook’s efforts to support the use of our platform by parties across the Indian political spectrum,” while Ms. Das didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.

Recently, Ms. Das apologised to colleagues for sharing an anti-Muslim post on her Facebook page.

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