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Everything you need to know about The Wire's withdrawn reporting on meta

Everything you need to know about The Wire's withdrawn reporting on meta

Meta - the parent company of Facebook and Instagram - is at the center of controversy in India, where a local publication claimed that the company removed an Instagram post on behalf of an Indian politician. Meta balked at these claims and accused the outlet of using "concocted" evidence.

After found discrepancies in The Wire's reporting by Meta and several experts online, the outlet decided on October 18 to suspend access to its stories and conduct an "internal review" of the documents used as evidence. It later withdrew its report on 23 October due to "certain discrepancies" that emerged in its reporting.

It's an unusually difficult story to track down the nuances of Indian politics, email forensics, and Meta's controversial relationship with the press. So we've boiled down the chaos of the past few weeks into a simple recap of what happened and why it matters.

What's going on here?
On 6 October, the independent Indian news publication The Wire published an article on how Instagram wrongly removed a satirical image of a man worshiping Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. The account's owner, @cringearchivist, says Instagram removed the post for violating its "sexual activity and nudity" policies, even though it didn't include sexual activity or nudity.

Many believed the post was flagged because of a glitch in an automated system, but The Wire said this was not true. An internal source in Meta reportedly told The Wire that the company removed the position at the request of Amit Malviya, the head of the information technology cell in India's ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (or BJP), but reported in The Wire. Hole makes these. suspicious.

Meta has since denied The Wire's report. It accuses the outlet of spreading false information and seeks to debunk "fabricated evidence" provided by The Wire's source, saying it expects The Wire to be "the victim of this fraud, not the perpetrator". " After vigorously defending its claims, The Wire has taken into account online reactions from Meta and users, saying it is "going to review its reporting on Meta." The outlet later decided to withdraw its story entirely because of various discrepancies in the documents it was initially presented as evidence, which we'll see below.

What did The Wire say?
Essentially, The Wire reported that Malviya banned the post using special privileges granted to high-profile users. To support these claims, they published screenshots of a document Instagram reportedly uses as part of its internal review process, listing Malviya's Instagram handle @amitmalviya as that user , which reported @cringearchivist's post. The document also said that Malaviya "has XCheck privileges" and that a further review of the reported material "is not necessary."

The XCheck program is undeniably real: Last year, a report in The Wall Street Journal revealed that Meta uses an XCheck, or cross-check, system that allows high-profile users to avoid Facebook and Instagram's typical moderation processes. lets escape. But The Wire's reporting appears to suggest it was being used for partisan political purposes in India, allowing Malviya to "post whatever he likes without the rules governing the platform that apply to him." Got it."

What does the meta say about The Wire's claims?
Meta responded to the platform, saying that its cross-check program "does not provide enrolled accounts with the power to automatically remove content from our platform." It adds that the policy was put in place to "prevent potential over-enforcement mistakes and to double-check cases where the decision may require greater understanding."

The company also pushed back an internal report provided by The Wire's source. Guy Rosen, Meta's chief information officer, says the URL included in the screenshot doesn't actually exist. "This appears to be a concoction," Rosen writes on Twitter. "The URL on that 'report' is the one that is not in use. The naming convention is one we don't use. There is no such report."

To prove the legitimacy of its source, The Wire posted a video showing the outlet claiming to be part of Instagram's internal workspace. The clip shows a user scrolling through a list of alleged "VIPs included in post-incident reports" on Instagram's backend, which The Wire said employees can only use on the company's internal subdomain, instagram.workplace. It can be accessed through .com only. And when the outlet said, "It has been ascertained that the video was not tampered with," Pranesh Prakash, a legal and policy analyst, observed an instance where the cursor was unnatural during the video.

Protocol is supposed to prove that an email actually came from where it says it, and in this case, that is the domain of Meta. The Wire posted a video showing the authentication process - the outlet says was signed by two independent security experts - and came to the conclusion that the email is genuine.

In response, Meta stated that the email is "fake" and there is no such thing as a "watchlist". Stone also denied the existence of the email in a statement on Twitter. "This is completely wrong," Stone writes. "I never sent, wrote, or thought about what was told in that alleged email, as it was clear from the start that the stories in @thewire_in are based on concoctions."

Users on the web have also blown away The Wire's allegations. In a thread on Twitter, cybersecurity expert and author Arnab Ray found that the DKIM analysis video posted by The Wire does not actually prove that Stone himself sent the email.

As explained by Ray, "DKIM is based on a domain public key," which means it cannot prove that it came from a specific person; It only shows that it came from a domain associated with a specific organization like This leaves room for someone to spoof their address to access the organization's email, making it look like the email came from Stone but actually didn't.

Prakash also shows how easy it is to make a video that looks like he is using the DKIM tool with a two-line shell script called "dkimverify". Prakash did this because "Tools" returns a "Signature OK" result, regardless of what is entered, which indicates that the DKIM is verified. The Wire has since disclosed that, during a review of its reporting, its investigators have not been able to verify the validity of Stone's alleged emails.

Emails between The Wire and alleged security experts confirming the outlet's DKIM certification process are also suspicious. Prakash points out that the dates of the emails do not match the current and archived versions of the article, with the former stating the year of the email as 2022 and the latter as 2021.

There is also evidence that emails can be completely fabricated. Online platforms' policy manager Kanishk Karan found that The Wire referred to him as an "independent security expert" at the bottom of an unread email, along with a fake email address as if it belonged to him. Karan says that The Wire's reporter Devesh Kumar approached him for DKIM verification, but he never did and instead referred him to other experts. In its most recent update, The Wire acknowledged that Ujjwal Kumar, the other security expert involved in the story, also "denied sending such emails" to sign off on the DKIM process.

So... what does all this add up to?
Whatever happened, it's not looking good for The Wire. Somehow, there is mounting evidence that his initial report was not telling the full story. Some skeptics believe that The Wire completely fabricated the evidence and created a fake story in an attempt to discredit the meta. There are also some who think that someone in alliance with the BJP has deliberately leaked the story to defame the publication.

Meanwhile, others think The Wire may be the subject of an elaborate ploy, in which someone close to Meta is creating fake evidence and tricking journalists into believing it's real. The Wire is also considering it, noting that "we are still reviewing the full case, including the possibility that it was deliberately attempted to misinformation or defraud The Wire." " ,

But as more information emerges, things start to become clear. A recent report by the platformer revealed that Kumar is the only person who had contact with the so-called "source" of The Wire, and it was only last week that Kumar claimed that his accounts were hacked. In addition to withdrawing Kumar's reporting on Meta, The Wire has also suspended access to his story on Tech Fog, which has been used by the BJP to infiltrate, control and spread misinformation on various social media platforms. system is. App is. The Wire says that the report has been "removed from public view until the result of an internal review by The Wire, because one of its authors was part of the technical team involved in our now withdrawn meta coverage."

Why is all this important?
META's leadership has had a turbulent relationship with the Indian government, and this bizarre back-and-forth is only going to make things worse. When Facebook whistleblower Frances Hogen came to the fore last year, internal documents revealed that META (then-Facebook) largely ignored the issues in India. According to The New York Times, Meta allocated 87 percent of its budget in 2019 to the US for classified misinformation on the platform, while the remaining 13 percent was spread to the rest of the world. This lack of restraint has led to a flood of hate speech and misinformation on Facebook in the country.

There are also issues related to META's relationship with India's ruling BJP political party. In 2020, the company was accused of failing to remove an anti-Muslim post shared by Indian legislator T. Raja Singh, who is a member of the BJP party. And last year, internal documents obtained by The Guardian found that Facebook allowed fake accounts allegedly linked to promoting a BJP politician to be placed on the platform. A recent report by Al Jazeera claimed that Meta offers a cheaper rate for ads purchased by politicians belonging to a pro-Hindu party.

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