There is at least one type of content that Facebook will unequivocally police.
The social media giant has reportedly been blocking, and in some cases removing, posts to its platform that purport to name the national security whistleblower who kicked off the current impeachment-related investigation into President Trump. According to Reuters, the company announced the move Friday following the posting of an article that claims to identify the whistleblower.
We reached out to Facebook to confirm this report, but received no immediate response. Still, the action wouldn’t be surprising — the company said in a statement to PCMag that naming the alleged whistleblower is in violation of its policies.
“Any mention of the potential whistleblower’s name violates our coordinating harm policy, which prohibits content ‘outing of witness, informant, or activist,'” read the statement. “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.”
Notably, there is no explicit mention of outing witnesses in the coordinating harm section of Facebook’s community standards page.
We also asked Facebook if the removed and blocked posts are promoted content — i.e. paid ads — or organic posts. We didn’t hear back.
What kicked this all off was a story from the right-wing site Breitbart, which claims to have identified and named the person who first reported to authorities the content of Trump’s July 25 conversation with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.
This isn’t the only Breitbart-related frustration encountered by Facebook. With the launch of its News tab, Facebook included the publication as one of its “trusted partners.” A 2017 BuzzFeed News report, based on scores of emails and documents, accused Breitbart of thriving on “the most hate-filled, racist voices of the alt-right.”
Facebook, it would seem, trusts Breitbart enough to give it preferred access to its News tab, but not enough to allow it to blast the alleged name of a national security whistleblower all over its platform.