National Security

As Whistleblower’s Identity Spreads, Social Media Companies Are Asked to Intervene

People holding mobile phones are silhouetted against a backdrop projected with the Twitter logo in this illustration picture taken September 27, 2013. (Reuters/Kacper Pempel)

Ever since an anonymous whistleblower filed a complaint regarding a phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump and his allies have pushed the media to name his accuser. 

According to The Washington Post the supposed name of the whistleblower has been circulating in right-wing online communities since at least October 3rd. Whereas The New York Times, the Associated Press, and The Washington Post, have all decided against sharing the whistleblower’s identity, outlets like Breitbart News and Washington Examiner have published the name in their news articles. On Wednesday, Donald Trump Jr. shared the individual’s identity in a Twitter post.

As the name spread from smaller corners of the internet onto mainstream platforms, the whistleblower’s lawyers told The Washington Post that social media platforms have an ethical responsibility to protect “those who lawfully expose suspected government wrongdoing.” 

Both Facebook and YouTube announced last week that they plan to remove content that mentions the whistleblower’s name.

See also: Zuckerberg Defends Facebook’s Policies in Speech at Georgetown University

On Friday, November 8th, a Facebook spokesperson told CNN that they would be taking down posts with the person’s name from its entire platform because it violated one of their community standards. 

“Any mention of the potential whistleblower’s name violates our coordinating harm policy, which prohibits content ‘outing of witness, informant, or activist’,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to CNN. Facebook added that it would “revisit this decision” if the name is widely published in the media or is used by public figures in debate.

YouTube is also planning to take down content with the name of the whistleblower. “The removals, the spokesperson added, would affect the titles and descriptions of videos as well as the video’s actual content,” CNN reported.

Twitter, however, is taking a different stance. While the company will remove any posts that contains a person’s private information, such as their address, contact information, or medical records, posts containing a person’s name does not break with the company’s policies.

This current controversy is not the first policy issue dividing these tech companies. After Mark Zuckerberg publicly defended Facebook’s decision to allow political advertisements that contain false and misleading information in mid-October, Twitter announced a plan to ban all political advertisements in an effort to halt the spread of misinformation.

The Washington Post CNN