News Website Appears to Have Been Duped by Fake Internal Meta Documents
Jahnavi Sen of the Wire, based in New Delhi, reported that she had received internal Instagram documents showing that posts flagged by high profile users will be removed with little oversight:
Days after reporting on this confusing takedown, The Wire has learnt from a well-placed source at Meta that it was not, in fact, due to an algorithmic glitch. The post was taken down – and that too just minutes after it was posted – only because it was reported by Instagram user @amitmalviya. That’s the handle belonging to Amit Malviya, president of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s infamous IT Cell.
Apparently, Malviya’s status permitted the removal of hundreds of posts in September alone. In a follow-up report, Sen and Wire founding editor Siddharth Varadarajan said they obtained a furious internal email from Meta’s policy communications director Andy Stone. Stone apparently lashed out at the “Team” and “Internal” aliases:
How the hell https://www.scribd.com/document/ 599584411/Instagram-report got leaked? Who is the reporter, not on our watchlist, and why didn’t anyone of you bother to link me up?
This story is not passing my sniff test, and it seems possible the Wire was duped by someone forging internal documentation. Shoshana Wodinsky of Marketwatch said in a tweet that, according to a source, there is no “Internal” list for Stone to send an email to. There are also no reporting-related categories in X-Check’s exemptions.
Meta’s CISO Guy Rosen tweeted a more comprehensive thread:
In its October 10 story, @thewire_in links to a supposed internal report about the incident in question. It appears to be a fabrication. The URL on that “report” is one that’s not in use. The naming convention is one we don’t use. There is no such report.
In its October 11 story, @thewire_in cites a supposed email from @andymstone. It is a fake. The supposed email address from which it was sent isn’t even Stone’s current email address, and the “to” address isn’t one we use here either. There is no such email.
Where to even begin with this story?! X-check has nothing to do with the ability to report posts. The posts in question were surfaced for review by automated systems, not humans. And the underlying documentation appears to be fabricated.
There is another thing, too: the email purportedly sent by Stone does not match the tone and style of other samples of Stone’s writing. This is pretty subjective, for sure, but even Stone’s casual tweets do not fit the way that email was written. It does not sound like American English to me, which is odd for an email from an American communications professional.
It looks a lot like someone pulled a fast one on the Wire but Varadarajan is standing by the story. Now seems like the best time to retract it if it this documentation is, indeed, fake.
Update: The Wire has replied to skepticism about the authenticity of these documents in a lengthy article. One of its sources even created a screen recording showing them signing into an account at
instagram.workplace.com, with dozens of reports following the naming convention used in the original story. The email allegedly from Stone still does not sound correct to me, and there are questions about the validity of its DKIM signature.