The public policy director of Facebook India has been named in a first information report filed in Chhattisgarh’s Raipur district on Monday night, reported Hindustan Times. The FIR against Ankhi Das and two others was filed based on a complaint by local journalist Awesh Tiwari, who is named in a separate FIR filed by Facebook’s policy head in Delhi.
The other two named in the FIR are Ram Sahu, a resident of Mungeli in Chhattisgarh, and Indore resident Vivek Sinha. The three have been booked under sections 295 (a) (deliberate and malicious acts that are intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs), 505 (1) (c) (with intent to incite, or which is likely to incite, any class or community of persons to commit any offence against any other class or community), 506 (criminal intimidation), 500 (defamation) and (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code.
A controversy erupted after an article published by The Wall Street Journal on August 14 reported that had Das opposed the idea of removing incendiary posts by Bharatiya Janata Party leaders, warning that this could hurt the company’s “commercial interests” in India. Das had also not revealed that Facebook had deleted fake news pages connected to the saffron party, according to the report.
The FIR in Chhattisgarh was registered after Tiwari was named in a complaint lodged by Das with the Delhi Police’s cyber cell on Sunday. She alleged that she has been receiving threats and offensive messages on social media ever since the WSJ report surfaced.
In Tiwari’s complaint, he said he had put up a post on Facebook on Sunday after the WSJ report. “There were comments over the facts of the story, which was published in the newspaper,” read his complaint, accessed by Hindustan Times. “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 removal.”
Tiwari alleged that Sahu and Sinha had defended Ankhi Das. They argued that Das was a Hindu and hence would work for the faith’s benefit. Sahu allegedly had also posted derogatory and communally-sensitive photographs and threatened Tiwari. The complaint also mentioned that Tiwari received threat calls after his Facebook post against Das.
I don’t know why I have been named in the complaint: Tiwari
Journalist Tiwari, who is the state bureau chief of a local news channel, has denied the allegations that Das has levelled against him in the FIR in Delhi. He told The Quint that he had never contacted Das nor has he ever threatened against her.
“I do not know why I have been named in the complaint,” said Tiwari. “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 also accused Facebook of arbitrarily censoring posts of his that criticised the government’s policies. “As a journalist for over 25 years it is my duty to ask questions,” he said. “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. 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.”