Wire has retracted its reports on Meta after discovering “certain discrepancies” in its news pieces, the Indian outlet said Sunday, marking what should be an end to the high-profile drama with the social juggernaut that captured the interest of newsrooms and tech companies globally for two weeks.
The move follows Wire, a small but gutsy Indian news outlet, setting up an internal review process to evaluate its reporting earlier this week after Meta, the subject of the original story, and the independent sources it relied on vehemently denied the newsroom’s reports.
“Our investigation, which is ongoing, does not as yet allow us to take a conclusive view about the authenticity and bona fides of the sources with whom a member of our reporting team says he has been in touch over an extended period of time,” Wire said in a statement.
Wire reported earlier this month that Meta gave the governing party BJP’s top digital operative an unchecked ability to remove content from Instagram and ran a series of follow-ups, asserting Meta was insincere in its public denials of the reporting. In one of the stories, Wire cited what it claimed was an internal email from Meta comms Andy Stone. In another, it cited testimonies from independent security researchers vouching for the authenticity of Stone’s email to Wire. (Both Meta and security researchers have disputed the reports.)
The Indian news organization said Sunday that “certain discrepancies have emerged in the material used.”
“These include the inability of our investigators to authenticate both the email purportedly sent from firstname.lastname@example.org as well as the email purportedly received from Ujjwal Kumar (an expert cited in the reporting as having endorsed one of the findings, but who has, in fact, categorically denied sending such an email). As a result, The Wire believes it is appropriate to retract the stories.”
Pamela Philipose, the ombudsperson at the Wire, reported serious lapse at Wire’s reporting on Saturday. She wrote:
However The Wire’s story failed certain foundational tests, most patently in its citing of sources. Many of these sources either did not stand by what The Wire put out, or were misunderstood, or were wrongly quoted, or possibly had second thoughts. As they went public on distancing themselves from the investigation, it began to tilt alarmingly like a chair deprived of a couple of its legs.
Rebuttals, if they are to work, must carry conviction. Despite The Wire’s efforts to iterate and reiterate the dependability of its account, and cite evidence that withstands the scrutiny of peers, things seemed to unravel at a pace that outstripped any effort to correct public perception. The doubts over the authenticity of the Andy Stone email are a case in point as also its lack of due diligent scrutiny into what the powers of the XCheck really are.
Finally, there were serious mis-steps in the firefighting that The Wire did when contrary evidence piled up.
Wire says it is working with independent security experts in its ongoing investigation. In the meantime, it appears that it has taken some action against Devesh Kumar, one of its reporters who worked on the story and was key to vouching the sources and the materials they provided.