Social Tech Giants Punish Users for Naming Whistleblower

November 11th, 2019 12:33 PM

CNN can’t even tell people whether naming the whistleblower is illegal. But tech companies are now the judge and jury for the common user.

Facebook and YouTube announced that they would delete content that named the whistleblower whose story inspired the Democrats to launch an impeachment inquiry on President Donald Trump. A Facebook spokesperson told CNN on Nov. 8 that “[a]ny mention of the potential whistleblower’s name violates our coordinating harm policy, which prohibits content ‘outing of witness, informant, or activist.’” On the same day, YouTube also announced to CNN that the platform was deleting content that named the whistleblower.

While users on Twitter reportedly have been suspended for naming the whistleblower, the company has yet to create a policy. CNN said that “simply tweeting the person’s name was not a violation of its rules,” per a Twitter spokesperson.

This is not stopping people on the left from mass reporting conservative figures who have tweeted out the potential whistleblower’s name. Politico contributor Bradley P. Moss tweeted, “If you see Candace Owens tweeting out a name and photo of someone she claims is the whistleblower please file a Twitter report. This is reckless. This is endangering someone’s life. This is a concerted campaign of intimidation.” Moss has represented whistleblowers in court, according to Politico.

The reports seem to work. OANN claimed political correspondent Neil W. McCabe was locked out of his Twitter account on Nov. 8 for sharing a report that named the whistleblower twice. McCabe had tweeted an introduction to his report, saying, “Please enjoy the @OANN report on my attempt to speak to Eric Ciaramella, named by some media outlets as the so-called whistleblower, at his Washington residence.” OANN cited Leslie McAdoo Gordon, a national security attorney, who said that there is “no law that says the whistleblowers’ identity is to be protected, that they can get anonymity.”

But even CNN agrees that “no law explicitly prevents anyone, other than the IG and their staff, from revealing the name of a whistleblower.” While whistleblowers are protected from “retaliation,” according to guidelines, anonymity is not one of these protections.

OANN host Jack Posobiec tweeted that two people had received “12-hour suspensions for tweeting the alleged whistleblower’s name.”

Federalist co-founder Sean Davis tweeted that “official government documents” published the name of Eric Ciaramella. These documents were published by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA). Davis wondered if “Facebook and YouTube” were going to “start censoring references” to this report.

CNN reported that a Facebook spokesperson said that the platform would “revisit this decision should their name be widely published in the media or used by public figures in debate.” If the name is published in official government documents and then released to the public, then it would theoretically be open to being widely published in the media. Donald Trump Jr. released the name of the whistleblower on Twitter, but even that is not enough for Facebook.

Journalist and YouTuber Tim Pool claimed he was locked out of his Facebook account and had his post removed for sharing a story from Politico that published details about the whistleblower. Pool shared a screenshot from his YouTube account which showed the video being locked, after receiving 281,779 views.