Twitter Jan. 6 whistleblower Anika Collier Navaroli speaks to The Washington Post

In an explosive hearing in July, an unidentified former Twitter employee testified to the House Jan. 6 committee that the company had tolerated false and rule-breaking tweets from Donald Trump for years because executives knew their service was his “favorite and most-used … and enjoyed having that sort of power.”

Now, in an exclusive interview with The Washington Post, the whistleblower, Anika Collier Navaroli, reveals the terror she felt about coming forward and how eventually that fear was overcome by her worry that extremism and political disinformation on social media pose an “imminent threat not just to American democracy, but to the societal fabric of our planet.”

“I realize that by being who I am and doing what I’m doing, I’m opening myself and my family to extreme risk,” Navaroli said. “It’s terrifying. This has been one of the most isolating times of my life.”

“I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t believe the truth matters,” she said.

Twitter banned Trump two days after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, citing fears he could incite further violence. By that time, he had sent more than 56,000 tweets over 12 years, many of which included lies and baseless accusations about election fraud. One month earlier, he had tweeted, “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”

Navaroli, a former policy official on the team designing Twitter’s content-moderation rules, testified to the committee that the ban came only after Twitter executives had for months rebuffed her calls for stronger action against Trump’s account. Only after the Capitol riot, which left five dead and hundreds injured, did Twitter move to close his 88 million follower account.

Tech companies traditionally require employees to sign broad nondisclosure agreements that restrict them from speaking about their work. Navaroli was not able to speak in detail about her time at Twitter, said her attorney, Alexis Ronickher, with the Washington law firm Katz Banks Kumin, who joined in the interview.

But Navaroli told The Post that she has sat for multiple interviews with congressional investigators to candidly discuss the company’s actions. A comprehensive report that could include full transcripts of her revelations is expected to be released this year.

“There’s a lot still left to say,” she said.

Twitter went easy on Trump because it ‘relished’ the power, ex-employee says

Navaroli is the most prominent Twitter insider known to have challenged the tech giant’s conduct toward Trump in the years before the Capitol riot. Now in her 30s and living in California, she worries that speaking up about her role inside Twitter on Jan. 6 could lead to threats or real-world harm.

Committee member Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.) cited those concerns to explain why Navaroli’s voice had been distorted to protect her identity in the segment of her testimony played during a nationally televised hearing in July. Raskin unveiled her name in a tweet Thursday, thanking her for her “courageous testimony” and “for answering the call of the Committee and your country.”

“She has constantly had to say to herself: This is important for the world to know, but it can compromise my safety. And she continually makes the patriotic choice,” Ronickher said. “The folks who do come forward and are willing to take these risks make such an impact for the rest of us.”

The hearings, which have been watched by millions, are expected to resume next week. The committee’s chairman, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), said Tuesday that the hearing could feature “significant witness testimony that we haven’t used in other hearings.”

Twitter for years dismissed calls to suspend Trump’s account for posts that many people argued broke its rules against deceptive claims and harassment; as a political leader, Twitter executives argued, Trump’s tweets were too newsworthy to remove.

But if Trump had been “any other user on Twitter,” Navaroli told the committee, “he would have been permanently suspended a very long time ago.”

The banning has helped fuel a conflict over tech companies’ rules that is likely to be settled in the Supreme Court. More than 100 bills have been proposed in state legislatures that would regulate social media platforms’ content moderation policies, and on Wednesday, Florida asked the Supreme Court to determine whether the First Amendment prevents states from doing so.

Appeals court upholds Texas law regulating social media moderation

Twitter executives have argued that Navaroli’s testimony leaves out the “unprecedented steps” the company took to respond to threats during the 2020 election. The company said it worked to limit the reach of violent extremist groups and ban accounts from organizers of the Capitol riots.

The company is “clear-eyed about our role in the broader information ecosystem,” Jessica Herrera-Flanigan, Twitter’s vice president of public policy…

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