Bad responses to The Wire’s Meta reports



Note, September 18, 2023, 6:40 am: I’ve often returned to this post since The Wire retracted its ‘Meta’ reports, to see if I still stand by its contents. I do with the portions that I haven’t struck through. That said, I believe in hindsight that holding these positions alone can’t be a gainful way to judge this or any other story.

Note, October 19, 2022, 6:25 am: Quite a few people have checked in asking if I will update this post in the light of The Wire updating its position on its investigation into censorship by Meta. I don’t intend to change this post, other than adding this note, because the 10 points still stand irrespective of what The Wire‘s internal review finds.

Ten types of bad-faith responses to The Wire‘s stories – this and this – on Meta, Andy Stone and Amit Malviya, plus one that we expect to face soon.

1. “The Wire is afraid to give the source’s name.”

Protecting whistleblowers is a matter of integrity. Trying to save skin by outing one’s sources wouldn’t be the credible thing to do in a situation like this.

2. “So source’s point is ‘trust me, bro’.”


3. “The Wire has lied all its life, so it will double down on its claim to avoid losing its purpose.”

A falsifiable contention, or an unfalsifiable one to those bent on avoiding simple facts, so a waste of time.

4. “You have no credibility.”

Thanks for reading and sharing articles from The Wire.

5. “The Wire has a bad track record.”

Hardline right-wing commentators on social media platforms have disagreed with almost every other The Wire article over what they perceive to be bias when it is disagreement with their point of view. Given this, I don’t trust these commentators’ definition of “track record”.

6. “You see what you want to see” is both accusation and defence.

After The Wire‘s first report and then Andy Stone’s response, The Wire was accused of seeing only what it wanted to see. But when the reports doubled down, the hardline commentators started to see only what they wish to see as their arguments defaulted to “The Wire must be lying.”

7. “Facebook/Meta has denied it, this is credible.”

All the arguments so far were levelled by the usual suspects and in that regard were as expected. But when other journalists from other publications signalled their willingness to buy Meta’s/Facebook’s/Stone’s denial – “M/F/S usually don’t do this but now that they have, it must be true” – it was hard to believe.

It indicated one or some of the following to be likely: a) they were cowed by Meta/Facebook, by the deluge of comments on Twitter or by both to agree with Stone’s denial;  b) how Meta is behaving now, responding now, etc. is new – but even then to claim Stone’s response on Twitter to be “clean” or “credible” is a bridge too far; …

8. Just ignorance

c) they weren’t aware of the lack-of-integrity with which Facebook operates in India; or d) they weren’t aware of their ignorance.

The American commentariat has expected non-Western journalists before to go to greater lengths than journalists from their own part of the world to prove something to them because you’re not one of them, overlooking the fact that you’re in fact working in a different part of the world where it is easier for the government or the corporation to discredit you, which in turn gives you less latitude to ‘show’ your work in every way they’d like before conferring you with the privilege of their agreement, even as they continue sealioning and gaslighting you.

9. “Stone’s email address can’t be *”

If you wish to hitch your wagon to the “Stone couldn’t possibly have replied from a * address, so the email whose screenshot The Wire has is fabricated” argument, that’s your prerogative. But you immediately give me the right to step over you at the first appearance of an email from a Meta employee sporting a * address. Et voilà.

10. [Ignore the posts that were taken down]

In all this hullabaloo, people have forgotten that Instagram took down @cringearchivist’s posts without specifying a reason other than that it contained nudity. It didn’t. Update, October 19, 2022, 6:35 am: Instagram/Meta quietly reinstated the posts by 4:16 pm yesterday. Still not clear why they were taken down or why they are now back online.

Preemptive: “Headers or it didn’t happen.”

The Wire‘s upcoming third report should clarify the point about email headers, but the (potential) problem here is larger: the audience isn’t entitled to all the evidence when any part of it may compromise the whistleblower’s identity, and particularly when some of those making the demands are just fuelled by bloodlust.

The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, and never will be. Those who expect otherwise are kidding themselves, and probably willfully disregarding what they understand to be true.

Update, 6:43 am, October 15, 2022: There’s more happening here than I expected. After exchanges with with some of my colleagues, I now believe that there some gaps in my knowledge that complicate blanket statements like the one above. Instead, I will defer on this count to the third Meta report by The Wire, which will be published today. 5.55 pm: published.