President Trump’s defenders on Reddit have been warned to tone down their discussions about the unnamed intelligence community whistleblower who sparked impeachment proceedings.
Reddit, one of the internet’s top websites, raised concerns this week about recent posts appearing on a forum, or subreddit, populated by Mr. Trump’s supporters.
A moderator of “The_Donald” subreddit shared a message with its users Tuesday that was allegedly sent originally on behalf of the website.
“We are writing to warn you about some serious Reddit lol behavior we have seen in your subreddit in recent weeks with regard to the alleged White House whistleblower,” the message said. “Please note that our rules about harassment and our prohibitions on inviting vigilantism still apply to any discussions speculating about the whistleblower’s identity.”
The apparent warning from Reddit came amid other major internet platforms similarly wrestling with users circulating details about an individual who several outlets have reported as potentially being the whistleblower who helped trigger the ongoing impeachment inquiry threatening Mr. Trump’s presidency.
A member of the U.S. intelligence community, the whistleblower flagged concerns about the Trump administration’s withholding of Ukrainian military assistance that culminated in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives initiated an impeachment inquiry in late September.
Mr. Trump and his allies have repeatedly called for the whistleblower’s identity to be revealed in the weeks since impeachment proceedings started, and people sympathetic to the president have recently circulated the name and other details of an individual they allege to have filed the complaint.
Attorneys representing the whistleblower have refused to reveal their client’s identity and have condemned efforts to out that person as detrimental to their safety and capable of preventing others from coming forward.
“Identifying any suspected name for the whistleblower will place that individual and their family at risk of serious harm,” lawyers Andrew P. Bakaj and Mark S. Zaid said in a joint statement issued Nov. 6. “Disclosure of any name undermines the integrity of the whistleblower system and will deter any future whistleblowers.
Major internet services including Facebook and YouTube subsequently said they would remove content from their platform mentioning the individual alleged to be the whistleblower, putting pressure on fellow providers like Reddit to consider whether to police its own platform for posts about the person.
“We do not have a specific policy around whistleblowers,” a spokesperson for Reddit said in a statement, CNN first reported Wednesday. “Our policy encourages an open discussion regarding issues of public and political relevance, however it forbids posting of personal information, or the encouragement of harassment or vigilantism. Context is important in these matters and we have and will continue to action posts and users that are in violation.”
Established in 2015, The_Donald bills itself as being “a never-ending rally” dedicated to Mr. Trump and is currently subscribed to by roughly 780,000 Reddit users.
The online community has previously gained notoriety from critics who have accused it of allowing hateful rhetoric to fester and serving as a breeding ground for right-wing conspiracy theories. Reddit “quarantined” the group in June, effectively preventing the subreddit from generating revenue and making its posts more difficult to access, over what the website called “significant issues with reporting and addressing violations of Reddit’s rules against violence and other aspects of the Content Policy.”
Reddit is ranked among the top 20 sites in the world and number six in the U.S., according to Alexa, an Amazon-owned internet analytics company.