Facebook accused of censorship in lawsuit over posts naming whistleblower

Facebook accused of censorship in lawsuit over posts naming whistleblower
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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 TrumpStowaway found in landing gear of plane after flight from Guatemala to Miami Kushner looking to Middle East for investors in new firm: report GOP eyes booting Democrats from seats if House flips 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. 

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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 PaulFauci overwhelmed by calls after journal published mistake over beagle experiments McConnell looks for way out of debt ceiling box Senators make bipartisan push to block 0M weapons sale to Saudis 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.