Wire-Meta Saga: Another Case Of Fighting A Super-Villain That Doesn't Exist

Wire-Meta Saga: Another Case Of Fighting A Super-Villain That Doesn't Exist

by Swarajya Staff - Wednesday, October 19, 2022 04:47 PM IST
Wire-Meta Saga: Another Case Of Fighting A Super-Villain That Doesn't ExistLess than 24 hours after The Wire came out with its first report, Meta dismissed the allegations, calling out the fabricated screenshots and the fake emails.
  • Despite being a beneficiary of largesse from some of India's most prominent billionaire businessmen, The Wire sanctimoniously revels in a self-imagined image of an underfunded media underdog that takes on the might of the 'establishment.'

On 10 October, The Wire, a shrill and partisan left-wing portal noted for its relentless anti-Modi narratives, published a report claiming that functionaries of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were bestowed extraordinary privileges by Meta, the parent company of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram.

The privileges, as claimed in the story, includes Amit Malaviya, the head of the National Information and Technology department operated by the BJP, having unfettered power to take down any social media post since he is a part of Meta's X-Check list.

The fantastical allegations, embellished with technical terms to bamboozle general readers into believing that The Wire carried out a path-breaking 'investigation', initially delivered the intended outcome for the outlet.

The report was touted as clinching evidence of how the Modi government and ruling BJP have established a tech-fuelled digital dystopia with the help of big tech behemoths.

Ever since BJP's wins in two successive general elections, anti-Modi forces in India are unable to reconcile to the simple reality that the party's electoral dominance is largely due to a combination of mundane reasons like cyclical electoral shifts that is par for the course in healthy democracies; better welfare delivery by the state; and continued confidence that PM Modi enjoys among a significant section of the voters.

Coinciding with publishing the 'investigative report', the outlet's founder-editor aggressively appealed to ideological fellow-travellers to help them achieve the monthly donation target.

The Wire wanted the readers to believe that the BJP was like Big Brother from the American TV series, watching over Indian citizens, censoring free speech and robbing them of their rights to criticise the Narendra Modi government.

However, much to the dismay of the management and editors at The Wire, the so-called investigative story blew up bit by bit under the scrutiny of several experts and alert netizens (complete story here).

The usual toolkit was then deployed.

Was the error accidental or had the publication been duped, as their counterparts in the media circles had been previously with an assignment at Harvard University and the Nobel Peace Prize?

Some even questioned if the editors, hindered by their understanding of technology, had made an honest mistake in their reportage.

However, no one wanted to cite their partisan reporting and call out the elephant in the room: the clear possibility that The Wire had conjured up an entire investigation, from top to bottom, believing that they would not be called out this time, since they had not been called out before.

BJP's Tek Fog: An App To Spy On Everyone

Earlier this year, in January, The Wire published a report about an app, which they defined as highly sophisticated and secretive, called Tek Fog.

Citing tweets from an individual claiming to have worked for the IT Cell of the BJP, the report stated that the app could manipulate trends online and target journalists and other individuals who do not speak in favour of the BJP.

Even though the BJP official in question had denied the existence of any such app in prior correspondence with The Wire, the story was published nevertheless.

Further, the report stated that the app could allow individuals to hijack inactive WhatsApp (owned by Meta) accounts and use the linked phone numbers to send out messages to the contact list. The evidence for this claim was a real-time demonstration The Wire claimed was shown to them by a 'source'.

Among other claims, a couple of companies were also mentioned. One of the companies was involved in the development of ShareChat, an app that the Wire claimed was collaborating with Tek Fog. ShareChat denied any such partnership.

Eventually, everyone The Wire mentioned in their report denied the fabrications without the former fighting the allegations. Shoot-and-scoot!

Pretending To Be David To Fight An Imaginary Goliath

Despite being a beneficiary of largesse from some of India's most prominent billionaire businessmen, The Wire sanctimoniously revels in a self-imagined image of an underfunded media underdog that takes on the might of the 'establishment.'

Undoubtedly, BJP, or any other political party globally, even the Democrats for that matter, in this day and age, would want to have sophisticated online operations to cater to their voter base, and a significant part of it would involve social media.

However, that is no excuse for any publisher, The Wire, in this case, to equate Amit Malviya to a digital kingpin with superhero abilities to take down posts, censor free speech, or even dictate terms to the biggest social networking platform in the world.

As was the case with Tek Fog, The Wire's recent reporting on Meta is another desperate attempt to play David engaged in a conflict with Goliath (the government).

The pretentious premise suits the larger political cause.

While exaggerating the capacities of the political parties' digital units by light years, many publishers and self-proclaimed fact-checkers and influencers want to be hailed as the outliers in what they define as arduous times for free speech and expression.

This 'David' disease is prevalent within the cinema community as well.

However, what prompts this behaviour, and why do publishers engage in stories that have no real value and merely rely on shock and awe to ride a readership wave?

Tribalism in Journalism: For The Few, By A Very Few

The overhaul in the news and entertainment industry has ushered in a culture of tribalism in journalism.

Plugged into the global ecosystem of the Left, many outlets in India now conjure stories of suppression, censorship, and anti-minority atrocities to not only create a negative perception of the government but even draw monetary benefits.

For instance, a doctored video of a party spokesperson from a TV debate, shared by a self-proclaimed fact-checker, is used to divert attention away from a religious matter being investigated by the court.

The same fact-checker then, without any fact-check (the irony), tweeted claims about being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize earlier this month.

Even though it is public knowledge that the nominations are never announced prior to the award, the fact-checker, his collaborator, and their organisation were happily milking away the donations in the name of Nobel.

Similarly, a fake offer letter from an Ivy-league university is used to buttress credibility of a journalist and her former organisation, infamous for their partisan and often, anti-India reporting.

In this case, it was about The Wire carrying a story that would have appealed to the sensibilities of its readers. Beyond the agendas and David-Goliath equations, it was also to plug the request for more support for similar investigations in the future, ahead of the national elections.

Meta: Not So Charitable This Time

Less than 24 hours after The Wire came out with the report, Meta dismissed the allegations, calling out the fabricated screenshots and the fake emails.

However, while calling out the palpably fake and fabricated story, Guy Rosen, the Chief Information Security Officer at Meta, ended his elaborate thread on Twitter by expressing hope that The Wire was a victim and not a perpetrator of this hoax.

Even while dismissing every single digital element The Wire's report mentioned with respect to Meta, Rosen was willing to give the publisher the benefit of the doubt.

Meta's soft spot comes as no surprise. For any other company, local, national, or multi-national, such allegations (including citing a fake video created using a fake account on a free-trial account of Workplace Meta) would have invited legal action.

However, as was the case with Tek Fog, this fictitious reporting will also go unpunished, for Meta's political leanings and priorities align with that of the publisher.

Just that the latter, in this case, did not know where to draw the line and ended up overplaying their gamble.

From the external fact-checking organisations and individuals the company employs to the lack of action against publishers like The Wire, Meta's left-leaning politics is a public secret. Thus, the Wire-Meta saga must be viewed as an exception.

While the clarification from Meta does render the report of The Wire futile, it does not dilute the fact that the Silicon Valley giant, intentionally, chooses to ignore the fictitious exploits of several editors, as was the case with Democrats as well, during Trump's tenure, as they cited Russian interference.

The Wire-Meta saga, thus, is merely another extension of the global partnership between the Left and several arms of Big Tech to defame a few governments and leaders, not a rare episode of honest editorial intent gone wrong.

Final Word

Citing inconsistencies, The Wire has withdrawn all the Meta-Malviya stories from its platform.

The Left, along with even Meta, will ensure that the management and editorial team of The Wire is remembered as a victim in the entire episode and not as a perpetrator, for the fight must continue, the support must be sought, the defamation must go on, and the alliance of Left and Big Tech must survive.

This was when every individual and organisation mentioned in the report called out the lies, errors, and fabrications.

However, anyone with a working knowledge of the real world would be able to see through the charade.

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