The CEO of Pinterest wants to make it easier for whistleblowers to report their bosses



Ifeoma Ozoma Blew the Whistle on Pinterest. Now She Protects Whistle-Blowers.

Ifeoma Ozoma Blew the Whistle on Pinterest. Now She Protects Whistle-Blowers.

The oracles of Silicon Valley persist in predicting an apocalypse on Earth, involving high-speed trains, rain and tsunamis. The Rapture of technologies is right around the corner, according to Stephen Hawking. Social media sites are set to dry up, or at least to behave badly, until they get better at their job, according to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. As the assistants of Marie Curie and Lady Gaga put it on Oprah this year, Twitter’s changes could very well lead to genocide. But as the manager of one company discovered, the countdown clock from one day to the next might not actually mean much at all.

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The nickname “CEO of Pinterest” may not initially sound that dramatic, but it was bestowed upon Dr. Victoria Espinel in 2015. CEO of all that sounds like Pinterest. Ms. Espinel is the former counsel to the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and is now one of the federal government’s most powerful whack-a-mole whiners — government employees who wield enormous power to prevent “corruption, fraud, waste, and abuse,” according to the agency. But the California transplant has tapped into a fresh resource to attack the ivory tower: “the flame of online dissent,” as she calls it, and blogs like the Wall Street Journal’s insideblogs.

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She warns of the multiple ways in which a corrupt power structure can allow actions that damage society. It can allow a financial scam to inflate the economy, for example, or allow a family to cheat its way into a house of wealth and then leave the country. And it can likewise become beholden to corporations and politicians who don’t always use their wealth to benefit the public.

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Ms. Espinel has used her bully pulpit to warn companies and individuals of how they might cause harm. And she has recently begun to use that pulpit to advise the public on how best to get involved. (Other advice includes turning off the lights at night and not eating ice cream.)

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Earlier this year, she spoke about the dangers of social media at the Economic Summit of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) in Singapore. She warned of the vulnerability of information sharing across networks and called on her audiences to donate to non-profits that are fighting for the protection of whistleblowers. Now she is using her bully pulpit to draw attention to that cause.

Want to be heard? @ifeduproofedtv has the answer. https://t.co/gVfTNMfTeD — American Civil Liberties Union (@ACLU) May 9, 2018

The Whistleblower Protection Act — a much-debated issue in the late 1990s and early 2000s — has never been enforced. But the Whistleblower Protection Act is being actively reconsidered this year, as members of Congress are putting a renewed emphasis on the legislative framework that protects those who expose abuse of power. Which means Ms. Espinel has good reason to want to make her voice heard on this subject.

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Ms. Espinel offered a provocative suggestion on The Ellen DeGeneres Show this week: Tell people to use the Fake Account App (FAP) on Instagram to report a post to Instagram. Sharing one’s account information in this manner could be part of your job as a whistleblower. Ms. Espinel went further, saying that the government could implement the FAP via a rule that would require companies to inform the Treasury when they receive calls from those reporting about false accounts.

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