Meta vs The Wire: The Atrocious Content Moderation War Ensues in India

Meta vs The Wire: The Atrocious Content Moderation War Ensues in India

Take a look at the Meta vs The Wire controversy that is taking the center stage in India

Meta the parent company of Facebook and Instagram – is currently at the center of controversy in India, where a local publication claims the company removed an Instagram post on behalf of an Indian politician. Meta has since denied those claims, accusing the outlet of using "fabricated" evidence, which may in fact be the case based on Meta's rebuttals and the insights of users online. Following a week of confusion and controversy around a series of stories on Meta published by The Wire, the India-based independent news site said on Tuesday it would review its coverage, including the documents, sources, and source materials used to build the stories that have become the central subject of tension. The stories in question, which have now been withdrawn by The Wire until a review is completed, alleged that Meta gave Amit Malviya, the social media head of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), sweeping powers to take down Instagram posts they didn't like. Meta and its officials immediately went public, not only dismissing the claims but also saying the documents used by the publication had been fabricated. Take a look at the Meta vs The Wire controversy.

What ensued in the next several days can be best summed up as utter confusion. Researchers, journalists, and social media users have been split: Some believe Meta is relying on its old trope of dismissing journalists' investigations, while others say The Wire was misled by a fake source and that it hadn't done enough due diligence.

This week, the Wire published a damning report about the content moderation policies of Meta, the social media behemoth that owns Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram. Meta, which has been misled about how it functions and moderates content before, replied by saying the news report was misleading at best and fabricated at worst. The Wire disputed Meta's claims and published an internal email in a follow-up story. As everybody on the internet started to argue, 'Who had the right to it?', things started getting hazy.

On October 6, 2022, the Wire reported that a number of satirical Instagram stories by "Superhumans of Cringetopia" were taken down on September 19 for violating the platform's community guidelines. The account does social and political satire in fairly academic language, but its posts are often critical of Hindutva groups and the Narendra Modi government, with some memes comparing Hindutva with Nazism.

The story published by the Wire focussed especially on an Instagram story that mocked a video showing an Ayodhya resident worshipping an idol of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath in a temple dedicated to him. The video supposedly violated Instagram's "sexual activity and nudity" restrictions. Instagram's guidelines prohibit nudity. A Meta spokesperson confirmed to Newslaundry that "nudity" was indeed the reason. But the video showed no nudity or sexual content. Both the idol and the devotee were fully clothed.

The Wire also claims it has obtained an email sent by Andy Stone, the policy communications director at Meta. In the email, Stone allegedly expresses frustration at the aforementioned leaked internal document and asks to put the journalists behind the story on a "watchlist." The Wire went so far as to verify the authenticity of the email using a tool called dkimpy, which validates the email's DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) signature.

Wire's Evidence Against Meta

The protocol is supposed to prove that an email really came from where it says it did, and in this case, that's Meta's domain. The Wire posted a video showing the authentication process — that the outlet says was signed off on by two independent security experts — and came to the conclusion that the email is real.

In response, Meta said that the email is "fake" and that there's no such thing as a "watchlist." Stone also denies the existence of the email in a statement on Twitter. "This is completely false," Stone writes. "I never sent, wrote, or even thought what's expressed in that supposed email, as it's been clear from the outset that @thewire_in's stories are based on fabrications."

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