FIR Against Facebook’s Ankhi Das for ‘Inciting Communal Animosity’

The FIR against Ankhi Das comes on the same day as Das’ own FIR alleging death threats and online harassment. 

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FIR Against Facebook’s Ankhi Das for ‘Inciting Communal Animosity’

Chhattisgarh’s Raipur Police registered an FIR against Facebook’s public policy director in India Ankhi Das on a slew of charges under the Indian Penal Code, including outraging religious feelings and incitement to violence, late on 17 August.

The complaint, filed by Chhattisgarh-based journalist Awesh Tiwari, alleges that Das had “pressured her employees to not take down several hate speech posts prior to the Lok Sabha elections.” This was done “to make political gains in the Indian market.”

Earlier on the same day, Das had filed separate police complaint with Delhi Police. In her complaint, Das alleged that she was getting death threats and facing online harassment. She also named Awesh Tiwari and said he had threatened her on Facebook on 16 August. The Chhattisgarh-based journalist, who is the state bureau chief of news channel Swaraj Express, has denied the allegations.

Both Complaints Follow WSJ Report

In the FIR, a copy of which The Quint has accessed, two other Facebook users, Chattisgarh resident Vivek Sinha, and Indore resident, Ram Sahu have also been named. Tiwari stated in his complaint that Das, in collusion with Sinha and Sahu, had “used Facebook to publish and circulate content aimed at creating animosity between Hindu and Muslim communities.”

Both, the FIR and police complaint come three days after a news report by Wall Street Journal stated Das had blocked Facebook from applying hate speech restrictions on several Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders including T Raja Singh, Anantkumar Hegde, and Kapil Mishra.

The report, quoting former and current employees, said Das has provided the BJP with favourable treatment on election-related issues.

According to the report, these employees told Wall Street Journal that Das had blocked the idea by telling staff members that punishing violations by politicians from PM Narendra Modi’s party would damage the company’s business prospects in India.

Tiwari mentions this claim from the Wall Street Report in his FIR.

‘I’ve Never Contacted or Interacted With Das’: Tiwari

Responding to Das’ allegation of harassment against him, Tiwari stated that on 16 August he had put up a post on Facebook where he had referenced the article and summarised the primary allegations against Das.

Speaking to The Quint, Tiwari refuted the allegations against him. He said nor had he ever contacted or interacted with Das, but he had also not issued any threats.

“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 Wall Street Journal,” Tiwari told The Quint.

In his complaint, Tiwari said that Sahu and Sinha have made death threats and are trying to intimidate him for speaking against Das. The FIR against Das also contains charges of defamation under Section 500 and common intention to commit a crime under Section 34 of the IPC.

Facebook Had Blocked My Posts on Pulwama, CAA-NRC: Tiwari

Speaking with The Quint, Tiwari alleged several of his posts critical of the government’s policies since February 2019 have been taken down by Facebook without adequate explanation.

“As a journalist for over 25 years it is my duty to ask questions. However, a number of my posts including on the Pulwama attacks, on CAA-NRC and tribal issues in Chhattisgarh have been blocked by Facebook in the past,” Tiwari told The Quint.

“One of my LIVE videos about a tribal agitation from Bhilai, which was going viral, was suddenly blocked. I was told it was against guidelines but never explained what I did wrong,” Tiwari alleged.

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