Bharatiya Janata Party social media cell chief Amit Malviya said on Thursday that he will file civil and criminal cases against The Wire for an article claiming that he holds special privileges that allowed him to get posts on social media website Instagram removed instantly.

On Sunday, The Wire had retracted the article and a series of other reports it had published about Meta, the parent company of Instagram. On Thursday morning, the news website apologised for publishing the articles and claimed that it had been deceived by a member of its investigative team.

Hours later, Malviya wrote in a Twitter post that he would seek damages from The Wire, alleging that the news website had forged documents to malign and tarnish his reputation.

Due diligence may not always reveal fraud, says ‘The Wire’

In a statement released in response to Malviya’s post, The Wire said that an occasion might come when a publication is misinformed.

“Technological evidence is more complicated and the usual due diligence may not always reveal the fraud perpetrated upon a publication,” the news website said. “This is what happened to us.”

The Wire stressed that it spoke the truth after realising that it has been given fraudulent information by its source. It added that whether the source who gave the news website the material for the article, acted on his own or someone else’s behest will be subjected to the judicial process.

“The malintent to discredit The Wire is obvious,” the statement read.

‘The Wire’ vs Meta row

The controversy started after on October 6, The Wire said 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 this up with a report on October 10 claiming that the post was taken down after a complaint by 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”.

Defending its report, The Wire published another article on October 11, with an image of an email allegedly sent by Stone on October 11 in which he rebuked some of his colleagues, asking them how the internal Instagram report “got leaked” and seeking more information on the matter.

The report also claimed that Stone had asked his colleagues to put Varadarajan and The Wire journalist Jahnavi Sen on a “watchlist”.

Meta’s Chief Information Security Officer Guy Rosen claimed that the email, too, was fake.

After this, The Wire on October 15 said it had verified Stone’s email and produced more technical evidence to support its claims. But this was met with scepticism from technical experts.

The news website had also published an explanation of the technical process that it had followed while writing the articles, which cited redacted emails from two cybersecurity experts. However, both the experts later denied having been part of the process.