A whistleblower (whistle-blower or whistle blower) is a person who exposes misconduct, alleged dishonest or illegal activity occurring in an organization. The alleged misconduct may be classified in many ways; for example, a violation of a law, rule, regulation and/or a direct threat to public interest, such as fraud, health and safety violations, and corruption. Whistleblowers may make their allegations internally (for example, to other people within the accused organization) or externally (to regulators, law enforcement agencies, to the media or to groups concerned with the issues).
The Continental Congress enacted the first whistleblower protection law in the United States on July 30, 1778 by a unanimous vote. The Continental Congress was moved to act after an incident in 1777, when Richard Marven and Samuel Shaw blew the whistle and suffered severe retaliation by Esek Hopkins, the commander-in-chief of the Continental Navy. Congress declared that the United States would defend the two whistleblowers against a libel suit filed against them by Hopkins. The Continental Congress also declared it the duty of "all persons in the service of the United States, as well as all other the inhabitants thereof" to inform the Continental Congress or proper authorities of "misconduct, frauds or misdemeanors committed by any officers in the service of these states, which may come to their knowledge."
Seventy-five years after the ratification of the Constitution, as the Civil War rended the United States, Congress enacted one of the first laws that protected whistleblowers, the 1863 United States False Claims Act (revised in 1986), which tried to combat fraud by military suppliers. The act encourages whistleblowers by promising them a percentage of the money recovered or damages won by the government and protects them from wrongful dismissal.
Whistleblowers frequently face reprisal, sometimes at the hands of the organization or group which they have accused, sometimes from related organizations, and sometimes under law.
Questions about the legitimacy of whistle blowing, the moral responsibility of whistle blowing, and the appraisal of the institutions of whistle blowing are part of the field of political ethics.