- Facebook has set up a new organizational structure in India, which will delink it from the Asia-Pacific region.
- The heads of Facebook India’s divisions will directly report to the global leadership.
- This is a requirement under toughened India laws for foreign internet companies, particularly to prevent misuse of social media websites.
- The new leadership team faces its toughest test already, with General Elections around the corner.
Facebook has changed the organisational structure for its India unit, as part of its plans to delink the country’s operations from the rest of the Asia-Pacific region.
Under the changed structure, the functional heads will report to the India managing director Ajit Mohan instead of the regional heads in Asia Pacific. Mohan, in turn, will report to David Fischer, who is part of Mark Zuckerberg’s core team. Currently, Ankhi Das is heading public policy, while Sandeep Bhushan is serving as Director, Global Marketing Solutions.
Siddharth Banerjee has been roped in as Director, Global Sales Organisation (Customer Partnerships and Agencies) and Archana Vohra is Director of Small and Medium Businesses. Prashanth Aluru and Manish Chopra will helm the new roles of Director, Strategy and Operations and Director and Head of Partnership respectively. These are recent appointments over the past six weeks.
By delinking India from its Asia Pacific operations, Facebook has brought the India office at par with the Menlo Park headquarters in the US. The India board that has been set up is a first for Facebook outside the US market.
India is Facebook’s largest market in terms of numbers with 294 million subscribers, higher than its home market (US) that has 204 million subscribers. But policy regulations have got stricter on foreign internet companies, after the spread of deadly rumours on social media.
This is especially critical in light of the upcoming general elections in India. Facebook is expected to show deeper commitment to prevent misuse of the platform for spreading of fake news. One of the mandated requirements for companies like Facebook is to set up a local entity.
Among the steps taken so far, Facebook has increased its focus on building a Trusted Flaggers network in what are considered high-risk countries. The number of forwards in Whatsapp has also been restricted to five. It is also taking steps to monitor online abuse, take measures to halt fake news, improve transparency in advertisements and remove fake accounts.
The experience of social media websites like Facebook is particularly unpalatable with governments across the globe since the Arab Spring in 2010. These platforms have proved to be a convenient way for activists to organize and plan protests and spread malicious agenda.
In the US, Facebook has faced a strong backlash over alleged Russian interference in the Presidential elections. The company later found around US$ 100,000 in ad spending during June 2015 to May 2017 pertaining to around 3,000 ads. These were connected to 470 unauthentic accounts and pages. Moreover, these ads and pages were affiliated to each other, spread divisive messages and possibly originated from Russia.
Facebook blocked hundreds of thousands of accounts in Brazil during the October elections there. Brazil only has 129 million Facebook users compared to 294 million for India. In the upcoming elections in the world’s largest democracy, Facebook faces possibly its toughest test yet in terms of keeping out fake news. Certainly, the new India team has its hands full already.