Nov 9, 2019

Facebook, YouTube block whistleblower's alleged identity

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Facebook and YouTube are blocking references to the alleged identity of the Ukraine whistleblower, the Washington Post reports.

Driving the news: Donald Trump Jr. shared the whistleblower's supposed name on Twitter. President Trump has said the whistleblower's identity "must" be determined after details of their complaint have been examined in an impeachment inquiry.

  • Twitter said it would permit references to the whistleblower on its app, including in posts shared by Trump supporters that include the alleged name and photos.
  • The whistleblower's lawyers sent the White House a "cease and desist" letter this week over Trump's calls for the whistleblower's identity to be made public.

The big picture: Facebook's current political ad policy allows politicians to repeat false claims or misstate an opponent's record or their own. Facebook has already begin removing the whistleblower's name from posts "for a few days," AP reports, and will revisit its decision if the name surfaces in public debate or is circulated in the mainstream media.

Between the lines: Social media platforms are largely left to their own devices when it comes to creating rules on speech and content — allowing for gaps and inconsistencies as they build guidelines where federal and state parameters are lacking.

Go deeper: Facebook, Google weigh changing political ad policies under pressure

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Vindman refuses to answer questions amid fear of outing whistleblower

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman faced a round of questioning from House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) over people with whom he discussed the July 25 call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Why it matters: After Vindman said he discussed the call — as a part of his position on the National Security Council — with State Department official George Kent and an unnamed intelligence official, the questioning devolved into a squabble over the impeachment inquiry's rules protecting the identity of the whistleblower.

Go deeperArrowNov 19, 2019

Rivals distance themselves from Facebook on political ads

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

Google, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat all made new announcements this week adjusting their political ad policies, placing themselves on a broad spectrum from anything goes to a near-total ban.

Why it matters: Many social media companies are using the ongoing political ad debate to distance themselves from Facebook, which has received the most criticism for its policies. Facebook's rules are the least restrictive amongst the group, because the tech giant believes that the government should regulate political ads, not private companies.

Go deeperArrowNov 21, 2019

WaPo: Bipartisan senators reviewing IRS whistleblower complaint

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Staff for Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) are looking into a July whistleblower allegation related to possible interference with an audit of President Trump's or Vice President Mike Pence's tax returns, the Washington Post reports.

What we know: Staffers met this month with the whistleblower, who reportedly claims that at least one political appointee inside the Treasury Department may have attempted to interfere with an audit process, according to the Post. Follow-up interviews are expected, but it's not yet clear if the senators have deemed the whistleblower credible. The Trump administration has suggested the whistleblower is acting on political motivations.

Go deeperArrowNov 18, 2019