On Thursday, President Donald Trump retweeted a post that outed by name the identity of the alleged whistleblower who first filed the complaint about his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Trump Pushes Out Tweet Naming Alleged Whistleblower:
Trump’s personal Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump, retweeted a post by the re-election campaign’s official “war room” account that was aimed at the whistleblower’s attorney Mark Zaid. “It’s pretty simple. The CIA ‘whistleblower’ is not a real whistleblower!” reads the tweet, which links to a Washington Examiner item. That piece, published Dec. 3, includes the alleged whistleblower’s name in the headline. The Daily Beast is declining to publish the name and has not independently verified the identity of the whistleblower.
As The Daily Beast reported last month, Trump had gossiped for weeks about this alleged whistleblower with various friends, media figures, and senior administration officials, and had asked some people if they thought it was a good idea for him to publicly announce or tweet the name. Several people close to the president, such as Ivanka Trump and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, had privately cautioned him against saying or posting the name in public, arguing it would be counterproductive and unnecessary.
Even Fox News host Sean Hannity, who had also gossiped in recent months with Trump about the alleged whistleblower, hadn’t pushed the president hard on this.
Multiple sources close to Trump had told The Daily Beast last month that they were genuinely shocked the president hadn’t already rage-tweeted the name or blurted it out to the cameras, given his massive fury at the individual. On Thursday night, President Trump’s restraint appeared to slip.
Retaliating against a whistleblower is a crime. Outing the identity of a whistleblower under protection of the whistleblower law is a crime. Witness intimidation is a crime.
There are calls for this to be a new article of impeachment and for Twitter to ban Donald Trump’s account. Trump outed the whistleblower — and the internet wants Twitter to ban his account: ‘Truly deplorable’.
That’s never going to happen. Social media companies, Twitter in particular, are malevolent platforms for the distribution of disinformation and propaganda. Earlier this month, Google and YouTube removed 300 Trump campaign ads for violating their services’ policies.
Twitter grants special exemptions to Donald Trump and other “world leaders” from its code of conduct, including from rules that apply to everyone else. But the social network — which is Trump’s go-to megaphone — says nobody is “above our policies entirely.”
Twitter has defended its decision to hold Trump and other political figures to a different standard, saying it leaves up posts from prominent individuals that are in the “public interest” even if they violate regular rules. In June, Twitter added a further nuance, announcing that posts from politicians that would ordinarily be deleted for policy violations will be displayed with a warning notice in front of tweets (requiring users to click through to view the post).
I don’t recall ever seeing this “warning notice” attached to Trump tweets, do you?
Now, Twitter has clarified, there are certain cases when Trump’s feed could be blocked. In a blog post Tuesday, Twitter (without citing Trump by name) outlined specific areas that could lead to political figures having their tweets or accounts deleted. Those include promoting terrorism; making “clear and direct threats of violence” against an individual; posting someone’s private info; or engaging in activities related to child porn.
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Twitter, in explaining that threats of violence against an individual are an absolute no-no, also tried to thread the needle — it added that “context matters” when it applies to violent threats and further said that “direct interactions with fellow public figures and/or commentary on political and foreign policy issues would likely not result in enforcement.” That appears to suggest that Twitter believes that Trump’s tweets targeting the anonymous whistleblower are OK.
“We understand the desire for our decisions to be ‘yes/no’ binaries, but it is not that simple,” Twitter said in the blog post.
Twitter now has to answer whether retweeting an article from the right-wing Washington Examiner which purports to “out” the identity of the alleged whistleblower (not confirmed), is the the equivalent of Doxxing, publicly exposing someone’s real name, address or phone number on the Internet who has taken pains to keep them secret — in this case, under the legal protection of the federal whistleblower laws.
Senator Kamala Harris has urged Trump’s removal from Twitter. “I would urge you to join me because here we have Donald Trump, who has 65 million Twitter followers and is using that platform as the president of the United States to openly intimidate witnesses, to threaten witnesses, to obstruct justice… Twitter should be held accountable and shut down [Trump’s account]. It is a matter of safety and corporate accountability.”
Harris’s campaign sent a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey urging the company to boot Trump for violating its ban on “targeted harassment,” citing Trump’s tweets attempting to “target, harass, and attempt to out the whistleblower” who raised concerns about his urging Ukraine’s president to investigate Joe Biden and his son.
Trump has now crossed that line and outed the identity of the alleged whistleblower. Trump violated Twitter’s ban on “targeted harassment.” So whatcha gonna do now, Jack? Give Trump a pass because he is president (implying he is above the law?)
Here’s the list of six areas Twitter said will result in enforcement action against any account, including political leaders:
- Promotion of terrorism;
- Clear and direct threats of violence against an individual (context matters: as noted above, direct interactions with fellow public figures and/or commentary on political and foreign policy issues would likely not result in enforcement);
- Posting private information, such as a home address or non-public personal phone number;
- Posting or sharing intimate photos or videos of someone that were produced or distributed without their consent;
- Engaging in behaviors relating to child sexual exploitation; and
- Encouraging or promoting self-harm.
Violations of these standards could result in action including account termination, for Trump or anyone else. According to Twitter’s policies, it will suspend or terminate an account “if we determine that a person has violated the Twitter Rules in a particularly egregious way, or has repeatedly violated them even after receiving notifications from us.”
Riiight. Don’t hold your breath.