Following communication from CAMERA’s Israel office, New Yorker editors today corrected a headline which presumed the guilt of an Israeli firm facing a lawsuit filed by WhatsApp for alleged exploitation of the platform to enable governments to spy on human rights activists and journalists.
Although the veracity of WhatsApp’s accusations have not yet been confirmed, the headline had stated: “WhatsApp Sues an Israeli Tech Firm Whose Spyware Targeted Human-Rights Activists and Journalists.”
Numerous leading media outlets carried headlines which carefully qualified the charges in the suit as claims, accusations, or allegations. Examples follow.
New York Times: WhatsApp Says Israeli Firm Used Its App in Spy Program
Wall Street Journal: Facebook Sues Israel’s NSO Group Over Alleged WhatsApp Attack
BBC News: WhatsApp Sues Israel firm over phone hacking claims
Bloomberg: Facebook Sues Israel’s NSO on Alleged WhatsApp Malware Hack
Guardian: WhatsApp sues Israeli firm, accusing it of hacking activists’ phones
The Washington Post: WhatsApp accuses Israeli firm of helping governments hack phones of journalists, human rights workers
Reuters: WhatsApp sues Israel’s NSO for allegedly helping spies hack phones around the world
CNBC: Facebook sues Israeli cybersecurity company NSO and claims it helped hack WhatsApp
A word is missing from this @NewYorker headline on Whatsapp lawsuit of Israeli firm NSO (Spoiler in the next tweet) pic.twitter.com/rFmtn39tz6
— Tamar Sternthal (@TamarSternthal) October 30, 2019
In the actual text of The New Yorker article itself, Adam Entous is appropriately cautious, carefully qualifying the information as “according to the lawsuit”:
On Tuesday, WhatsApp took the extraordinary step of announcing that it had traced the malware back to NSO Group, a spyware-maker based in Israel, and filed a lawsuit against the company—and also its parent, Q Cyber Technologies—in a Northern California court,accusingit of “unlawful access and use” of WhatsApp computers.According to the lawsuit, NSO Group developed the malware in order to access messages and other communications after they were decrypted on targeted devices, allowing intruders to bypass WhatsApp’s encryption. [Emphasis added.]
In response to communication from CAMERA, editors commendably amended the headline to reflect the fact that the allegations are just that. The amended headline now accurately states: “WhatsApp Claims That An Israeli Tech Firm’s Spyware Targeted Human Rights Activists and Journalists.”