Facebook accused of censorship in lawsuit over posts naming whistleblower

Facebook accused of censorship in lawsuit over posts naming whistleblower
© Getty Images

A new lawsuit accuses Facebook of censorship over alleged removal of posts naming “the alleged Ukraine whistle-blower,” whose complaint sparked the impeachment inquiry into President TrumpDonald John TrumpKimberly Guilfoyle reports being asymptomatic and 'feeling really pretty good' after COVID-19 diagnosis Biden says he will rejoin WHO on his first day in office Lincoln Project offers list of GOP senators who 'protect' Trump in new ad MORE

Law school student Cameron Atkinson claimed in court that the social media platform didn't explain to him why it deleted the three posts, Bloomberg Law reported Tuesday.

The student reportedly claimed that he wanted to test whether Facebook was blocking posts that mention a name that conservative outlets claim is the whistleblower's. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Atkinson said in court that his three posts — one calling the person a "hero," another calling the person a "dirty rat" and a third saying Atkinson had "conflicting feelings" about the person — were taken down, according to Bloomberg.

Asked for comment on the lawsuit Wednesday, a Facebook company spokesperson repeated the statement given by the company while announcing it will remove mentions of the potential whistleblower's name on its platform last week. 

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

"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,” they added.

 

Some Republicans on Capitol Hill, including Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulHow conservative conspiracy theories are deepening America's political divide Gianforte halts in-person campaigning after wife, running mate attend event with Guilfoyle Rand Paul's exchange with Fauci was exactly what America needed MORE (R-Ky.), have tweeted out stories that claim to reveal the possible identify of the whistleblower. It is not clear if those reports are accurate.

The Hill has not named the individual being targeted by Republicans. It is also typically the policy of The Associated Press and other major news outlets not to reveal the identity of whistleblowers, who enjoy federal protections against retribution.

The whistleblower's attorneys and Democrats have argued the person's name should not be made public, and that there is little reason for the person to come forward now that their allegations have been overtaken by testimony by public officials.

Some of those officials will be testifying publicly starting on Wednesday.

YouTube also said it will remove mentions of the potential whistleblower's name.

Facebook has recently struggled to toe the line between free expression and limiting harmful speech. Recently, Facebook has had a high-profile disagreement with Democrats over whether it should fact-check political advertisements that go up on its platform.  

House Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry into President Trump after the whistleblower raised concerns about the president's dealings with Ukraine. 

--Updated at 11:14 a.m.