News website The Wire has filed a police complaint against their researcher Devesh Kumar, who worked on a series of articles about social media company Meta, editor Siddharth Varadarajan confirmed to Scroll.in.
In an interview with Platformer, Varadarajan had said that Kumar was the only person to meet the source for the Meta reports.
On October 23, The Wire had retracted the articles and started a review of its reporting and editorial processes. Without naming Kumar, The Wire had previously said that it had been deceived by a member of its investigative team. On October 27, the news website issued a public apology.
“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.”
The Wire had claimed that the chief of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Information Technology cell Amit 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. Meta is the parent firm of Instagram.
The Wall Street Journal had reported in September 2021 that X-Check protects at least 5.8 million “high-profile [Facebook and Instagram] accounts” such as “celebrities, politicians and journalists” from the Meta content takedown procedure that apply to ordinary users.
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”.
The news website was booked by the Delhi Police on Saturday based on a complaint by Malviya. His complaint did not mention Kumar.
Kumar has also co-authored The Wire’s on Tek Fog – the purported application that BJP used to automate the retweeting of posts on Twitter, store a database of private citizens for targeted harassment and hijack inactive WhatsApp accounts.
The reports on Tek Fog were removed along with those of Meta.
This article will be updated when more details become available.