Facebook is deleting the name of the potential whistleblower

Clay Curtis
November 10, 2019

Trump and his allies have attacked the whistleblower and called for that person to come forward, while Sen. The president allegedly pressured Zelenskiy into providing information about Joe Biden and his son, Hunter's, business dealings with a Ukrainian energy company-including the accusation that Biden used his political influence to have an investigation into the squashed.

But the whistleblower's attorneys have said that such disclosure poses a threat to their client, and they have urged news outlets to refrain from doing so. The alleged misconduct was first flagged by a whistleblower, reportedly a Central Intelligence Agency employee then detailed to the White House, whose complaint is at the center of the impeachment inquiry initiated in September by House Democrats. Conversely, a Twitter spokesperson told CNN that tweeting the name didn't violate its rules.

The company's statement follows right-wing Breitbart News' publication of an article that said it identified the whistleblower. That category does include such details as a person's address, contact information or medical records.

The federal Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 prohibits the U.S. Office of Special Counsel from disclosing a whistleblower's identity, but does not extend to people outside the government.

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"If a person's life is in danger, then there could be criminal ramifications", said Kitrosser, though she added that First Amendment considerations would be involved in any possible argument about incitement to violence.

The company said Friday that mention of the potential whistleblower's name violates Facebook's "coordinating harm policy", which prohibits material that could identify a "witness, informant, or activist". Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.

Because the individual named by Breitbart and elsewhere has not been confirmed as the whistleblower, his name has not been used in most media coverage of the controversy. Facebook said in response to criticism of that decision that Breitbart is an unpaid partner, unlike some outlets in the section. "This, frankly, is at the pinnacle of irresponsibility and is intentionally reckless". Twitter recently announced it would ban political ads, while Facebook both allows them and permits politicians to lie and mislead in them, exempting this form of political speech from the platform's fact-checking process.

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