Twitter whistleblower Anika Collier Navaroli, who provided testimony to the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, spoke at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, earlier this month. The Signals Network supports Navaroli through its Whistleblower Protection Program.
Navaroli focused on how the importance of the truth can outweigh the risk and the hardships of being a whistleblower.
“It is incredibly isolating,” Navaroli told the audience on Saturday. “[I] essentially felt like I was living a double life, a secret life. … It is a process that requires you to go to some really dark places and decide that, even if that happens, it’s worth it.”
Navaroli was the most senior and tenured member of Twitter’s safety policy team at the time of the attack on the US Capitol in January 2021. In September 2022, she went public in an exclusive interview with The Washington Post as the Twitter whistleblower who gave evidence to the U.S. House Committee investigating the January 6th attack. Shortly after, she was awarded the Ridenhour Prize for her courage in coming forward to speak truth to the committee.
The Sundance panel, presented by Luminate, was titled “Democracy & Narrative Change: Those who tell the stories hold the power.” Panelists explored how people with access and power in storytelling platforms such as Twitter can shape society and democracy for good or bad.
Twitter whistleblower Anika Collier Navaroli (second from left) spoke at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah on Jan. 21.
Navaroli spoke alongside Luminate CEO Stephen King, Academy Award-nominated director Petra Costa, Academy Award-nominated actor Yalitza Aparicio and activist Txai Suruí, who was also executive producer of “The Territory.”
During the panel, Navaroli warned about the lack of transparency around content moderation within social media companies.
“If people really understood that there are five to seven people sitting inside of a Slack channel on their laptop deciding things that really mean life and death for broad swath of humanity, we would be more outraged,” she said.
When asked about her forecast for the future, Navaroli said she feared democracies will collapse without narrative change. Pointing to Brazil’s Jan. 8 attack on its Congress being remarkably similar to the Jan. 6 attack in the U.S., she said there is now a “playbook” used by fascist governments to challenge democracy around the world.
Navaroli talked about how she was inspired to reveal her identity as a whistleblower after watching documentary films. She pointed to the 2020 documentary “A Thousand Cuts” about renowned Filipino and American journalist Maria Ressa, who was a top target of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s suppression of the news media. Ressa gave Navaroli the confidence to pursue her own whistleblower journey and to come forward and be public, she said on Saturday.
There was a particular scene, she said, that showed Ressa talking to her sister and her sister crying and begging her not to blow the whistle because of the risk she would face. Ressa calmly and resolutely responded that she knew the risks, but was still willing to go forward. That scene inspired Navaroli to come to terms with the fact that releasing the information for the public good outweighed the risk, despite similar push-back from loved ones, she said.
“As much as I’m saying we need more people to come forward, I also realize I cannot ask people to take the risk that I have taken,” she said. “It’s really important for me to spend some time making sure that there is infrastructure created that supports the safety and the well-being of the individuals that come next.”
A full recording of the panel can be viewed here.
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Story by Sarah Gamard