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Did the Guardian Act Unethically in Whisper Expose? A Twitter Debate.

In a recent report on the app Whisper, did the Guardian cross a journalistic line?

Shutterstock / Gil C

Here’s a really interesting debate that has been playing out on Twitter over the past couple days, over a recent story in the Guardian saying the anonymous messaging app Whisper was tracking users’ locations without their permission.

The Guardian says its story resulted from a three-day visit to Whisper headquarters to discuss an “expanded journalistic relationship,” and now journalists are taking to Twitter to discuss the ethics of the Guardian’s reporting.

Whisper has a number of media partners, including the Guardian, and many of them are working to distance themselves from the company following the report, which Whisper has vehemently denied. BuzzFeed, Fusion and the Huffington Post have all confirmed to Re/code that they are temporarily halting their relationships with Whisper until more information surfaces about how the company deals with user privacy.

As media partners, these organizations work with Whisper to pull relevant content for stories. In some instances, Whisper would approach its partners with suggested story ideas based on themes or trends the company saw within its community.

The Twitter debate started when Business Insider CEO Henry Blodget said the Guardian may not have behaved ethically in its reporting of the story. Here are a few highlights from the reactions:

New York Times writer Matt Apuzzo jumped in to set one thing straight:

Khosla Ventures’ Keith Rabois sparked a spinoff discussion about the honesty of undercover reporting in general:

(That’s a reference to this landmark court case).

Guardian editor Janine Gibson seems to have ended the online debate (at least for now) by clarifying that the Guardian’s reporters didn’t agree to any nondisclosure agreement while visiting:

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