Tech

Facebook exec's half-hearted apology for calling Muslims 'degenerate' isn't enough

Ankhi Das oversees policy for Facebook in India.

Mint/Hindustan Times/Getty Images

Ankhi Das, Facebook's policy director for India and South and Central Asia, has apologized to Muslims in the company after sharing a post that called India's Muslims a "degenerate community" for whom "nothing except purity of religon and implementation of Shariah matter."

The post she shared was written by a former Indian police officer in response to protests against a citizenship law that fast-tracks Indian citizenship for South Asian immigrants belonging to most religions except Islam.

Oops, I guess? — In her apology letter obtained by BuzzFeed, Das basically writes off the fact that she shared a clear statement of hate as an accident. “Dear friends - The intent of my personal Facebook post was not to denigrate Islam,” Das wrote to employees. “It was to reflect my deep belief in celebrating feminism and civic participation." So she didn't mean to degenerate Islam per se, just Muslim people? Or rather Das is using feminism as a cover to hide her Islamophobia. Either way the apology doesn't seem likely to quell concerns.

Das is influential within Facebook because she effectively has control over content policy in India, and even there her actions seem to reflect her words. According to a recent investigation published by The Wall Street Journal, Das has allowed violent posts to remain on the site coming from the ruling Hindu nationalist party, including one in which Indian politician T. Raja Singh calls for shooting Rohingya Muslims on sight and depicts Indian Muslims as traitors. She conveniently didn't mention that situation in her apology.

The hate from inside the house — Facebook has repeatedly said that it works hard to rid its platform of hate, but then contradicts itself with incidents like these and others. Other investigations have found that the company intervenes to allow right-wing sites spreading misinformation to remain on the site if they've spent lots of money on advertising. And CEO Mark Zuckerberg in some cases has come out in defense of President Trump, saying a post from him suggesting violence against protestors could remain up because his personal interpretation was that it wasn't written with actual malicious intent. The truth there is likely more that he doesn't want to upset conservatives.

Facebook's policies ultimately are guided by its leadership, which has shown what its values are. How can anyone expect the platform to be cleared of hate when the leaders pulling the levers behind the scenes aren't willing to make hard decisions, or themselves hold hateful opinions?

The company is going to continue having these problems until it cleans up its ranks, maybe starting with Das.