Meta and news agency spar deepens India’s trust deficit • TechCrunch

Tech giants and News organizations squabbling over news reporting is nothing new. Companies often complain to reporters that they get the nuances wrong and usually air their frustrations “off the record.” Reporters usually agree to include the objections on the condition that the companies can offer the same allegations on the record. Companies don’t follow through and the conversation usually ends there and people never find out what is a very common thing.

That’s one of the factors that makes this week’s reporting by Indian news agency The Wire on Instagram and Meta’s responses remarkable. Lawmakers and news outlets in the US and India are closely watching one of the strangest episodes of a newsroom and its subject publicly questioning — and doubling down on — its claims.

The Wire, an organization known for holding the ruling party to account in a way that very few do, reported on Monday that Facebook has given the ruling BJP’s top digital operative unfettered power to remove content from the platform. The report, which is based on what it claims are internal documents, appears to advance the WSJ’s report of an internal company program called XCheck, where Facebook shields millions of VIP users from the company’s normal enforcement process.

Meta insists the XCheck program “has nothing to do with the ability to report posts” and has publicly called the documents “fabricated.” Andy Stone, Meta comms, he tweeted: “The posts in question were displayed for review by automated systems, not humans. And the underlying documentation appears to be fabricated.”

The unexpected twist came Tuesday when the Wire doubled down on its reporting, claiming it included a photo that appeared to show an alleged email Stone sent to internal groups questioning members about how the documents were leaked. The photo also showed that Facebook maintains a watchlist of journalists.

Wire’s answer immediately went viral for several hours and most people believed it. In a way that separates it from most other companies, Facebook has earned a reputation where its denials aren’t really taken at face value. That’s why at least two major outlets in India chose not to acknowledge the Wire story — nor Meta’s denials of those reporting, according to two people familiar with the matter. (Though to its credit, Facebook is suing the Indian government over users’ right to privacy.)

The matter was considered closed and it appeared that Facebook, which identifies India as its biggest user market, was trying to mislead again.

However, the drama’s lifespan has been extended as Meta has since doubled down on his denial, saying that Meta’s Stone’s alleged email in the story is “fake”.

Guy Rosen, Chief Security Intelligence Officer at Meta, he said: “The supposed email address it was sent from isn’t even Stone’s current email address, and the ‘to’ address isn’t the one we use here either. No such email exists. The same story makes reference to a “watch list” of an internal reporter. There is no such list.”

Facebook, like many other companies, maintains folders for journalists. I know because I was accidentally sent the link to one about five years ago. Meta also maintains email addresses with the domain. (The general press contact remains email Although this is not proof that Stone is still actively uses a email.)

The Wire supports its report. However, if Meta is right, tricking a reputable media outlet into spreading an explosive story that could easily be refuted by a major mega-industry organization like Meta would damage the credibility of the press across India, at a time when the the country’s media are increasingly facing a series of existential crises. Who would have the least to lose and the most to gain here, especially if the goal was to undermine credibility in the press?

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