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Facebook, YouTube Ban Content Claiming to Name Trump Impeachment Whistleblower as Twitter Permits It

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Twitter found itself isolated this week as other major social media platforms moved to block users from spreading the name of a CIA officer that conservatives contend filed the extraordinary whistleblower complaint against President Donald Trump that triggered House impeachment hearings.

Facebook said it would block references to the supposed whistleblower’s name under its policy against “coordinating harm.” And YouTube said Friday it was doing the same and would block images as well.

But Twitter said it would permit such references, including posts that name the person conservative media say is the whistleblower and show pictures claiming to depict him as well.

This split came after repeated warnings by the whistleblower’s lawyers that publicizing a name puts that person and the person’s family at risk. The lawyers sent a sharply worded cease-and-desist letter to the White House on Thursday, demanding that President Trump stop calling for the publication of the whistleblower’s name, calling the tactic a “reckless and dangerous” form of intimidation.

But a campaign among conservative publications, activists and social media users to surface the identity of the supposed whistleblower appeared only to grow on Friday, two days after the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., tweeted the name. Conservative commentator Candace Owens, for example, twice posted tweets that purported to name and show images of the whistleblower.

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While the first was later deleted, the second quickly reached a wide audience, retweeted or liked about a hundred thousand times.

In response to a request for comment from The Washington Post, Owens called the whistleblower “a treasonous spy with deep ties to the Democrats.”

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Her language echoed that of the president, who has said that whoever passed information to the whistleblower was “close to a spy.”

“You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart with spies and treason, right?” Trump added. “We used to handle it a little differently than we do now.”

The president’s threatening language has added fuel to an online crusade to unmask and intimidate officials who have raised alarms about Trump’s dealings with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Since the whistleblower filed his complaint Aug. 12, a clutch of named diplomats have come forward to corroborate the concerns that Trump was pressuring Ukraine to open investigations that would bolster unfounded conspiracy theories about the 2106 election and damage the presidential campaign of former vice president Joe Biden.

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Trump’s call for the whistleblower to be identified led to a campaign by Trump supporters to use the unregulated online ecosystem to circulate a name that remains unconfirmed by mainstream news organizations, many of which have policies to withhold information when an individual may be at risk.

Meanwhile, Trump’s eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, said in an interview Friday with the Associated Press that the individual’s identity was not “particularly relevant.”

Twitter defended its decision to allow the sharing of the CIA officer’s name, despite acknowledgement that such tweets might violate Twitter’s policies.

“Per our private information policy, any Tweets that include personally identifiable information about any individual, including the alleged whistleblower, would be in violation of the Twitter Rules,” said company spokeswoman Katie Rosborough.

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But Rosborough said the Owens tweet and others did not violate that policy because the tweets did not share the supposed whistleblower’s home addresses, contact information or financial details. Twitter policy permits “sharing information that is publicly available elsewhere, in a non-abusive manner.”

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That includes the name, birthdate or employment of a person, as well as descriptions of a person’s physical appearance and “gossip, rumors, accusations, and allegations.”

While whistleblowers enjoy protections under federal law designed to encourage government employees to report wrongdoing without fear of retaliation, Heidi Kitrosser, a law professor at the University of Minnesota, said those protections would not prohibit private individuals from seeking to unmask a whistleblower. But, she added, there could be other possible legal recourse.

“If a person’s life is in danger, then there could be criminal ramifications,” said Kitrosser, though she added that First Amendment considerations would be involved in any possible argument about incitement to violence.

Most news organizations, including The Washington Post, have withheld the name of the whistleblower, whose complaint about Trump’s call with his Ukrainian counterpart has been largely confirmed by diplomats and others with firsthand knowledge as well as by a reconstructed transcript released by the White House. The whistleblower’s name has been kept confidential by U.S. officials, in line with federal law designed to prevent retaliation.

Facebook said Wednesday that it would block references to the supposed whistleblower’s name in response to Washington Post queries about advertisements on the platform that sought to circulate it. Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said, “Any mention of the potential whistleblower’s name violates our coordinating harm policy, which prohibits content ‘outing of witness, informant, or activist.’ 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.”

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Lawyers for the whistleblower did not respond to requests for comment Friday regarding the policy decision by Twitter. But on Wednesday – before Facebook said it would remove the ads – they said social media platforms have an ethical responsibility to protect “those who lawfully expose suspected government wrongdoing.”

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“This is particularly significant in this case where I have made it clear time and time again that reporting any suspected name for the whistleblower will place that individual and their family at risk of serious harm,” said the attorney, Andrew Bakaj, on Wednesday. “To that end, I am deeply troubled with Facebook seeking to profit from advertising that would place someone in harm’s way. This, frankly, is at the pinnacle of irresponsibility and is intentionally reckless.”

This is not the first issue on which Twitter and Facebook have split. Twitter recently announced it would ban political ads, while Facebook both allows them and permits politicians to lie and mislead in them, exempting this form of political speech from the platform’s fact-checking process.

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Updating Special Ad Audiences for housing, employment, and credit advertisers

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On June 21, 2022 we announced an important settlement with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that will change the way we deliver housing ads to people residing in the US. Specifically, we are building into our ads system a method designed to make sure the audience that ends up seeing a housing ad more closely reflects the eligible targeted audience for that ad.

As part of this agreement, we will also be sunsetting Special Ad Audiences, a tool that lets advertisers expand their audiences for ad sets related to housing. We are choosing to sunset this for employment and credit ads as well. In 2019, in addition to eliminating certain targeting options for housing, employment and credit ads, we introduced Special Ad Audiences as an alternative to Lookalike Audiences. But the field of fairness in machine learning is a dynamic and evolving one, and Special Ad Audiences was an early way to address concerns. Now, our focus will move to new approaches to improve fairness, including the method previously announced.

What’s happening: We’re removing the ability to create Special Ad Audiences via Ads Manager beginning on August 25, 2022.

Beginning October 12th, 2022, we will pause any remaining ad sets that contain Special Ad Audiences. These ad sets may be restarted once advertisers have removed any and all Special Ad Audiences from those ad sets. We are providing a two month window between preventing new Special Ad Audiences and pausing existing Special Ad Audiences to enable advertisers the time to adjust budgets and strategies as needed.

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For more details, please visit our Newsroom post.

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Impact to Advertisers using Marketing API on September 13, 2022

For advertisers and partners using the API listed below, the blocking of new Special Ad Audience creation will present a breaking change on all versions. Beginning August 15, 2022, developers can start to implement the code changes, and will have until September 13, 2022, when the non-versioning change occurs and prior values are deprecated. Refer below to the list of impacted endpoints related to this deprecation:

For reading audience:

  • endpoint gr:get:AdAccount/customaudiences
  • field operation_status

For adset creation:

  • endpoint gr:post:AdAccount/adsets
  • field subtype

For adset editing:

  • endpoint gr:post:AdCampaign
  • field subtype

For custom audience creation:

  • endpoint gr:post:AdAccount/customaudiences
  • field subtype

For custom audience editing:

  • endpoint gr:post:CustomAudience

Please refer to the developer documentation for further details to support code implementation.

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Introducing an Update to the Data Protection Assessment

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Over the coming year, some apps with access to certain types of user data on our platforms will be required to complete the annual Data Protection Assessment. We have made a number of improvements to this process since our launch last year, when we introduced our first iteration of the assessment.

The updated Data Protection Assessment will include a new developer experience that is enhanced through streamlined communications, direct support, and clear status updates. Today, we’re sharing what you can expect from these new updates and how you can best prepare for completing this important privacy requirement if your app is within scope.

If your app is in scope for the Data Protection Assessment, and you’re an app admin, you’ll receive an email and a message in your app’s Alert Inbox when it’s time to complete the annual assessment. You and your team of experts will then have 60 calendar days to complete the assessment. We’ve built a new platform that enhances the user experience of completing the Data Protection Assessment. These updates to the platform are based on learnings over the past year from our partnership with the developer community. When completing the assessment, you can expect:

  • Streamlined communication: All communications and required actions will be through the My Apps page. You’ll be notified of pending communications requiring your response via your Alerts Inbox, email, and notifications in the My Apps page.

    Note: Other programs may still communicate with you through the App Contact Email.

  • Available support: Ability to engage with Meta teams via the Support tool to seek clarification on the questions within the Data Protection Assessment prior to submission and help with any requests for more info, or to resolve violations.

    Note: To access this feature, you will need to add the app and app admins to your Business Manager. Please refer to those links for step-by-step guides.

  • Clear status updates: Easy to understand status and timeline indicators throughout the process in the App Dashboard, App Settings, and My Apps page.
  • Straightforward reviewer follow-ups: Streamlined experience for any follow-ups from our reviewers, all via developers.facebook.com.

We’ve included a brief video that provides a walkthrough of the experience you’ll have with the Data Protection Assessment:

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The Data Protection Assessment elevates the importance of data security and helps gain the trust of the billions of people who use our products and services around the world. That’s why we are committed to providing a seamless experience for our partners as you complete this important privacy requirement.

Here is what you can do now to prepare for the assessment:

  1. Make sure you are reachable: Update your developer or business account contact email and notification settings.
  2. Review the questions in the Data Protection Assessment and engage with your teams on how best to answer these questions. You may have to enlist the help of your legal and information security points of contact to answer some parts of the assessment.
  3. Review Meta Platform Terms and our Developer Policies.

We know that when people choose to share their data, we’re able to work with the developer community to safely deliver rich and relevant experiences that create value for people and businesses. It’s a privilege we share when people grant us access to their data, and it’s imperative that we protect that data in order to maintain and build upon their trust. This is why the Data Protection Assessment focuses on data use, data sharing and data security.

Data privacy is challenging and complex, and we’re dedicated to continuously improving the processes to safeguard user privacy on our platform. Thank you for partnering with us as we continue to build a safer, more sustainable platform.

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Resources for Completing App Store Data Practice Questionnaires for Apps That Include the Facebook or Audience Network SDK

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Resources for Completing App Store Data Practice Questionnaires for Apps That Include the Facebook or Audience Network SDK

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