Social media platform ShareChat on Wednesday asked news website The Wire to take down an article published in January that linked it to a purported application named Tek Fog allegedly used by the Bharatiya Janata Party to spread “fake news, political propaganda and hate speech”.
ShareChat made the demand a day after The Wire announced that it would undertake an internal review of a series of reports that it recently published about social media company Meta, the parent firm of social media platforms Facebook and Instagram.
In its reports about Meta, The Wire had claimed that the chief of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Information Technology cell Amit Malviya holds special privileges that enable him to get posts removed from Instagram.
ShareChat said on Wednesday that it would be prudent of The Wire to acknowledge that there may be discrepancies in the report linking it to Tek Fog as well.
In a two-part report about Tek Fog published in January, The Wire alleged that the BJP IT cell used the purported application to automate the retweeting of posts on Twitter, store a database of private citizens for targeted harassment and hijack inactive WhatsApp accounts.
The Wire had claimed that Tek Fog operatives used ShareChat to “test and curate fake news, political propaganda and hate speech before automating it to other popular social media platforms”. The report had, however, added that the Bengaluru-based social media platform had denied any connection with the purported application.
In its statement on Wednesday, ShareChat noted that researcher Devesh Kumar was among the authors of the articles on Tek Fog, as well as the recent ones about Meta. The company said that it continues to deny the “fabricated allegations” against it.
“However, we note that this report continues to be available online for public consumption, completely disregarding expert third-party views and questions about the veracity of the fantastic claims made,” it said.
ShareChat denied having engaged with any person or organisation “associated with or working on the mysterious ‘Tek Fog’ application that has been conjured up by The Wire”. It also alleged that the news website made the claims without seeking its comment.
The social media platform added the Tek Fog report had “quoted an expert who we understand has sought to distance himself from The Wire in the latest [Meta] story”.
On October 6, The Wire said that that Instagram had deleted a satirical post showing a man worshipping a statue of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath for violating the platform’s guidelines on “nudity and sexual content” even though the image did not depict any nudity.
The publication followed up with a report on October 10 claiming that the post was taken down on a complaint from Malviya, the head of the BJP’s social media cell. The Wire report claimed that Malviya has special privileges through an Instagram programme called X-Check that ensures that any posts he reports are removed from the platform immediately, with “no questions asked”, even if they do not violate Meta’s rules.
On October 11, Andy Stone, Meta’s communications director, said that The Wire’s report was based on false information. He said that X-Check system had “nothing to do with the ability to report posts”.
He also said that “posts in question were surfaced for review by automated systems, not humans” and that an internal report of Instagram cited by The Wire’s source “appears to be fabricated”.
In the subsequent, several claims made by the news website were challenged by technology experts and journalists.
Following the criticism, The Wire on Tuesday announced that it would withhold the articles about Meta, which owns Instagram, and will conduct an internal review of all the information and material provided by its sources.