Fabrication Claims and one FIR Later, ‘The Wire’ Files Police Complaint Against its Meta Story Researcher
Digital news publication The Wire has filed a police complaint against their own researcher Devesh Kumar, who worked on a series of articles about social media company Meta, editor Siddharth Varadarajan confirmed to Scroll.in.
The Wire’s complaint was lodged at the Economic Offences Wing of the Delhi Police on Sunday. This comes a day after the police lodged an FIR against the publication, its founder and editors in connection with a controversial investigative report.
The said investigative report had claimed that BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya had special privileges through tech giant Meta’s Xcheck programme to expedite the removal of over 700 social media posts. The FIR was lodged by the police based on a complaint filed by Malviya himself on Friday.
Commenting on the complaint registered by The Wire, a police official told the Indian Express, “The complaint has been filed against Devesh Kumar who is allegedly involved in the fabrication of documents and forgery. This is in connection with all the Meta stories that were published this month,” said an officer. An FIR has not been registered yet as the police were looking into the complaint.
On October 23, The Wire had retracted the Meta stories and begun an internal review of its reporting and editorial processes. Without mentioning Kumar's name, The Wire had previously claimed that it had been deceived by a member of its investigative team. On October 27, the news website issued a public apology regarding the Meta stories.
As the issues regarding the Meta story flared up, in an interview with the Platformer, Varadarajan had said that Kumar was the only person to meet the source for the Meta reports. He also added that there were two sources involved in the story. “Source A is the person who provided the Instagram report and Source B provided the [Andy Stone] email. In both cases, Devesh has been in touch with them and has met and interacted with them. But a number of my colleagues have interacted with source B, who is a longer standing source of ours, going back four or five months,” Varadarajan said.
In another report , the Platform mentions Wire journalist Jahnavi Sen told them that the publication confirmed the new source’s identity through documents like their work badge and pay slips; after many conversations, The Wire trusted the source to reach out to them in connection with an investigating into the suspicious removal of seven Instagram posts satirising a central government official.
Meta strongly denied this story when it came out. The story claimed that Meta had given a high-ranking member in the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, Amit Malviya, the power to remove Instagram posts at his will.
Andy Stone, Meta’s communications director, took to Twitter on October 11 to say that The Wire’s report was based on false information and that the X-Check system had “nothing to do with the ability to report posts”. Stone said, “Posts in question were surfaced for review by automated systems, not humans” and that an internal report of Instagram as cited by The Wire’s source appeared to be “fabricated”.
While announcing its internal review of the Meta story on October 18, The Wire on Twitter said, “Our recent coverage of Meta began with an incident that reflected a lack of transparency.” The statement appeared to have referred to the curious disappearance of Instagram posts with political satire.
About retracting the article, The Wire’s editor-in-chief said on October 19 that one of their researchers spoke to a security expert regarding the video verification of the Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM) test. However, the security expert publicly said that he was not part of this process, which led the publication to look into what happened.
Varadarajan further said in his interview to the Platform that Kumar was in charge of verifying all documents ahead of publication.
Issuing a statement of apology On October 27, The Wire said, “Another obvious learning is that the editing process for any investigative story should involve multiple layers of editors. We are instantly putting in place appropriate protocols to ensure this happens.” It added, “This combination of not fully grasping the complexities of technology and a slippage in editorial assessment of tech-related matter resulted in the publication of stories which did not eventually hold up. For this we owe an apology to our readers.”
“Whether the person who brought all the material to The Wire deceived us at anyone else’s behest or acted on his own is a matter that will be subjected to judicial process in due course,” the news website said in its statement. “The malintent to discredit The Wire is obvious."
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