Critics are lashing out at Twitter for not taking a hard line to protect the identity of the whistleblower whose complaint prompted the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. Both Facebook and YouTube are scrubbing any mention of the whistleblower’s supposed identity and photo — but not Twitter.
Facebook said it would block references to the alleged whistleblower’s name and photos under its policy against “coordinating harm,” which prohibits “outing of witness, informant or activist.” YouTube announced a similar action.
But Twitter said it would allow users to name the individual alleged to be the whistleblower, and to post photos of the individual, as long as the information doesn’t include personal contact information. So Twitter has become the go-to platform for vicious attacks on the whistleblower that many say could endanger the individual’s safety.
The former head of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, Walter Shaub, asked Saturday why Twitter was failing to suspend accounts of people trying to “get the whistleblower killed by naming the person they think it is.” He added that Twitter will be “largely responsible if anything happens to this person.”
At least one person responding to Shaub said an account was taken down by Twitter after she complained about it. But others said repeated complaints about accounts naming the suspected whistleblower remain up despite being reported to Twitter.
Donald Trump Jr. posted the name of the person he believes it to be on his Twitter account. The tweet remains up.
The president is encouraging such exposure. The White House was sent a cease-and-desist letter by the whistleblower’s attorney on Thursday in an effort to protect the whistleblower’s identity — and safety.
“I am writing out of deep concern that your client, the President of the United States, is engaging in rhetoric and activity that places my client, the Intelligence Community Whistleblower, and their family in physical danger,” Andrew Bakaj warned White House counsel Pat Cipollone. “I am writing to respectfully request that you counsel your client on the legal and ethical peril in which he is placing himself should anyone be physically harmed as a result of his or his surrogates’ behavior.”
The whistleblower’s attorneys also told The Washington Post that social media platforms have an ethical responsibility to protect “those who lawfully expose suspected government wrongdoing.”