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Last week, The Wire formally retracted its Meta stories after conducting an internal review of the technical source material used, with the help of external experts.
The Wire is also conducting a comprehensive editorial review of the internal editorial processes which resulted in the publication of these stories in order to identify and plug any and all shortcomings. That process of review is still under way, but one clear editorial learning which can already be stated with certainty is that complex technical evidence – whether brought by someone who is part of the newsroom or a freelancer – and all verification processes that involve technical skill, must be cross-checked by independent and reputed experts in the field. Had we done this before publication rather than after the fact, this would have ensured that the deception to which we were subjected by a member of our Meta investigation team* was spotted in time.
The Editorial team takes moral responsibility for the omission and undertakes to ensure that in future all technical evidence will be verified by independent experts before publication.
The Wire acknowledges that the internal editorial processes which preceded publication of these stories did not meet the standards that The Wire sets for itself and its readers expect from it. To have rushed to publish a story we believed was reliable without having the associated technical evidence vetted independently is a failure of which we cannot permit repetition.
Another obvious learning is that the editing process for any investigative story should involve multiple layers of editors. We are instantly putting in place appropriate protocols to ensure this happens.
This combination of not fully grasping the complexities of technology and a slippage in editorial assessment of tech-related matter resulted in the publication of stories which did not eventually hold up. For this we owe an apology to our readers.
In making this open admission and putting in place more robust processes for checking and cross-checking documents and indeed all source-based information, we are promising our readers that there will be no recurrence.
The particular question of what prompted the abrupt take down of an innocuous Instagram post remains, as does the general concern about the options social media users have for speedy and fair resolution of disputes that affect freedom of online speech.
This is all the more reason for The Wire to resolve greater vigilance and thoroughness in its reportage from this day on.
* Note added Oct 27, 2022 (11:40, 12:18): The person responsible is no longer associated with The Wire in any capacity.