‘Ankhi Das Murdabad’: What led Facebook India’s public policy chief to go to police

Das has accused five social media users of issuing ‘violent threats against my life and body’ through online posts. One of the accused has since filed an FIR against her.

ByAnna Priyadarshini
‘Ankhi Das Murdabad’: What led Facebook India’s public policy chief to go to police
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Full disclosure: Facebook is one of the sponsors of The Media Rumble, the annual event organised by Newslaundry in partnership with Teamwork Arts.

On August 16, Facebook’s top public policy executive in India, Ankhi Das, filed an online complaint to the Delhi police’s Cyber Cell against five individuals and some unknown persons, alleging they have been issuing “violent threats against my life and body through online posting/publishing of content”.

Das named Himanshu Deshmukh, Awesh Tiwari, Anamika Singh, Travis Bikal, and the Twitter user @justanalysis as the accused. She alleged that the threats were prompted by a report published by the Wall Street Journal last week. The report detailed how she had prevented Facebook from applying its hate speech rules to some BJP leaders and “other Hindutva individuals and groups”.

Das‌ asked for ‌an‌ ‌FIR but ‌the‌ ‌police‌ haven’t‌ ‌complied‌ ‌yet.‌ This, however, hasn’t prevented ‌news‌ ‌agency‌ ‌‌IANS‌‌ ‌and‌ news outlets such as the ‌Quint Hindi‌ from claiming that the police have filed an FIR.‌ ‌

A screenshot of the complaint filed by Ankhi Das.

A screenshot of the complaint filed by Ankhi Das.

Awesh Tiwari is a journalist with the Hindi TV news channel Swaraj Express. In her complaint, Das alleged that she was threatened and demanded that an FIR be registered under the Indian Penal Code sections that punish sexually coloured remarks; word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman; and criminal intimidation.

Responding to the allegations, Tiwari said, “As a journalist, I have the right to do my work and the allegations against me are baseless and without proof, which should not be tolerated. I don’t know Ankhi Das in any capacity – no interaction, no call, nothing. The reason I have been mentioned in Das’s complaint is that I made a Facebook post on August 16 at 10.30 pm. I listed eight important points of the WSJ report in it. Show me any proof that I have interacted with her? One single proof?”

Tiwari’s post was shared by Himanshu Deshmukh, who tagged Das. “Only because of this, Das named Deshmukh too. If any post is against Facebook’s policy, then it will automatically be against Facebook’s policy director too. So, why didn’t they block my post by declaring it as a ‘hate speech’? Facebook didn’t do that. But when Facebook is not blocking, that means the post is not violating any standards. Then, why did she register a complaint against this?” he asked.

Tiwari further accused Facebook of curbing the freedom of speech.

On August 17, Tiwari registered an FIR against Das with the Raipur police. Grounding his complaint on the WSJ report, Tiwari accused Das of inciting communal disharmony in the country.

He also named Ram Sahu and Vivek Sinha for posting hateful comments on his post. “I have filed a complaint against them for bullying and threatening me on the basis of my Facebook post,” he explained.

Tiwari said he found the WSJ report as having journalistic merit. “Previously, I have questioned the government on the Pulwama attack, killings related to the CAA-NRC protests. So, whenever I questioned the government or wrote in favour of promoting communal harmony, the posts were blocked by Facebook. The tribals in Chhattisgarh performed an agitation against the CAA-NRC in Bhilai and I recorded it live. The live was blocked by Facebook on the grounds of not adhering to ‘community standards’. I do not know what are these community standards that are being violated?”

As for the others named in Das’s complaint, Travis Bikal’s seems to be a fake Twitter account, with just retweets and no original posts. Anamika Singh, who goes by @its_annu_ on Twitter, is in the name of one Mohammad Anas. On August 16, this handle tweeted “Ankhi Das Murdabad”. While replying to the lawyer Saket Gokhale’s tweet, another accused, @justanalysis1, tagged Facebook’s handle and said, “Facebook, your Ankhi Das could be dragged in public and hanged. Facebook should shut its operations in India.”

In fact, all the accused apart from Tiwari appeared in the replies to Gokhale’s tweets. Das, though, didn’t name Gokhale in her complaint.

With inputs from the Newslaundry Hindi team. Read the Hindi piece.


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