A justification of whistleblowing

Philosophy and Social Criticism 43 (7):669-684 (2017)
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Abstract

Whistleblowing is the act of disclosing information from a public or private organization in order to reveal cases of corruption that are of immediate or potential danger to the public. Blowing the whistle involves personal risk, especially when legal protection is absent, and charges of betrayal, which often come in the form of legal prosecution under treason laws. In this article we argue that whistleblowing is justified when disclosures are made with the proper intent and fulfill specific communicative constraints in addressing issues of public interest. Three communicative constraints of informativeness, truthfulness and evidence are discussed in this regard. We develop a ‘harm test’ to assess the intent for disclosures, concluding that it is not sufficient for justification. Along with the proper intent, a successful act of whistleblowing should provide information that serves the public interest. Taking cognizance of the varied conceptions of public interest, we present an account of public interest that fits the framework of whistleblowing disclosures. In particular, we argue that whistleblowing is justified inter alia when the information it conveys is of a presumptive interest for a public insofar as it reveals an instance of injustice or violation of a civil or political right done against and unbeknown to some members of a polity.

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Author Profiles

Manohar Kumar
Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology
Daniele Santoro
Universidade do Minho

Citations of this work

Theories of whistleblowing.Emanuela Ceva & Michele Bocchiola - 2020 - Philosophy Compass 15 (1):e12642.
Whistleblowing and power: A network perspective.R. Guy Thomas - 2020 - Business Ethics 29 (4):842-855.
Leaks and the Limits of Press Freedom.Eric R. Boot - 2019 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 22 (2):483-500.
Anonymity, fidelity to law, and digital Civil disobedience.Wulf Loh - 2023 - Philosophy and Social Criticism 49 (4):448-476.

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References found in this work

A Theory of Justice: Revised Edition.John Rawls - 1999 - Harvard University Press.
Self-defense.Judith Jarvis Thomson - 1991 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 20 (4):283-310.
Secrets: on the ethics of concealment and revelation.Sissela Bok - 1982 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Democratizing civil disobedience.Robin Celikates - 2016 - Philosophy and Social Criticism 42 (10):982-994.

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