Facebook, YouTube to remove 'any and all' mention of potential whistleblower's name

Facebook, YouTube to remove 'any and all' mention of potential whistleblower's name
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Facebook and Google's YouTube on Friday said they will take down any mention of the potential whistleblower's name, while Twitter will currently allow users to post the name.

The social media giants made the decision days after several news outlets began printing the name of a man believed to be the whistleblower who raised concerns about President Trump’s contacts with Ukraine, sparking a complicated reckoning among publishers over whether to share the name of someone whose identity is meant to be protected under federal law.

Nearly all mainstream news outlets have declined to print the name thus far, even as some GOP lawmakers engage in a public effort to publicize the person's identity.

On Thursday, Facebook took down a spate of ads shared by conservative groups that included the alleged whistleblower's name.

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"Any mention of the potential whistleblower’s name violates our coordinating harm policy, which prohibits content 'outing a witness, informant, or activist,'" a Facebook official told The Hill on Friday.

"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 debate," the official added.

The policy pertains to content posted directly to Facebook's platform, the official confirmed, meaning the social media giant will remove posts from users that mention the name as well as articles with the name in the headline or first paragraph.

A YouTube spokesperson told CNN that the video-sharing platform would also scrub videos that mention the alleged whistleblower’s name. It will take down videos that use the name in titles and descriptions as well as the actual footage. 

Twitter, however, said in a statement that it will remove posts that include "personally identifiable information" on the alleged whistleblower, such as his or her cell phone number or address, but it will keep up tweets that mention the sensitive name. Twitter’s content moderation policies are often more lax than the other two platforms. 

The whistleblower is subject to federal protections against retaliation under federal law. 

Donald Trump Jr.Don John TrumpWatchdog to weigh probe of Trump administration advancements of Pebble Mine Trump pledges to look at 'both sides' on Pebble Mine Twitter limits Donald Trump Jr.'s account after sharing coronavirus disinformation MORE, President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Bob Woodward book will include details of 25 personal letters between Trump and Kim Jong Un On The Money: Pelosi, Mnuchin talk but make no progress on ending stalemate | Trump grabs 'third rail' of politics with payroll tax pause | Trump uses racist tropes to pitch fair housing repeal to 'suburban housewife' Biden commemorates anniversary of Charlottesville 'Unite the Right' rally: 'We are in a battle for the soul of our nation' MORE's eldest son, tweeted a link to a Breitbart article that named the alleged whistleblower this week.

Trump's son posted the name as GOP lawmakers and the president have stepped up their calls to unmask the whistleblower.

“We ... now know the name of the whistleblower," Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulWatchdog calls for probe into Gohmert 'disregarding public health guidance' on COVID-19 Massie plans to donate plasma after testing positive for COVID-19 antibodies After trillions in tax cuts for the rich, Republicans refuse to help struggling Americans MORE (R-Ky.), typically a vociferous defender of privacy rights, said earlier this week. "The whistleblower needs to come forward as a material witness." 

Paul blocked a resolution Wednesday that would have reaffirmed the Senate's support for whistleblower protections. Even as some lawmakers remain staunchly opposed to it, some top GOP senators have started to back Trump's calls for the whistleblower to testify publicly.