Facebook and YouTube announced they will scrub all references to the purported whistleblower in the ongoing Ukrainegate saga. Mark Zuckerberg’s brainchild, however, was not always so supportive of those who blow the whistle.
In a pair of announcements on Friday, both companies said they would delete any posts or ads mentioning the supposed whistleblower’s name, which recently emerged in reports on a number of conservative media outlets and was widely shared online, including by the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr.
“We are removing any and all mentions of the potential whistleblower’s name and will revisit this decision should their name be widely published in the media or used by public figures in the debate,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to the press, citing the platform’s rules against “coordinated harm.”
YouTube issued its own statement soon afterwards, noting that the company would use a combination of human monitoring and machine learning to find and erase the offending content, including when it appears in video titles and descriptions.
Contrasting the moves by Facebook and YouTube, in a statement to the Associated Press, Twitter maintained that it would allow posts featuring the name in question, arguing they do not violate its policies regarding “personally identifiable information.”
While Facebook appears to be clinging to principle in the case of Ukrainegate, the company has faced criticism for its approach to whistleblowers in the past. Last year, after former Cambridge Analytica employee Christopher Wylie came forward with allegations his employer illegally harvested data from the platform under Facebook’s nose, he received a swift ban.
The tech giants’ decisions come as Washington is gripped by impeachment drama, sparked by allegations that President Trump sought to pressure his Ukrainian counterpart to launch investigations into Joe Biden – a rival in the upcoming presidential election – and his son, Hunter. The alleged misconduct was first flagged by a whistleblower, reportedly a CIA employee then detailed to the White House, whose complaint is at the center of the impeachment inquiry initiated in September by House Democrats.
President Trump and several fellow Republicans have recently stepped up calls for the whistleblower’s identity to be revealed in public, over objections from the whistleblower’s attorneys who claim the publicity would risk their client’s safety.