2023 has been another incredible year for Whistleblower Aid – and we are so grateful that you have been on this journey with us.
Our clients came forward with courage and determination achieving real impact for the rest of us. It is truly a privilege to represent, support and amplify their voices. Here are just a few highlights of our work this year:
- Renowned misinformation expert blows the whistle on Harvard protecting its donor Meta from critical research: Our client, Dr. Joan Donovan, blew the whistle on the Harvard Kennedy School’s trampling of academic freedom to serve the interests of its Meta associated donor. Big Tech’s use of the Tobacco industry’s playbook to bury, intimidate and kill research with money and influence has plagued researchers and academics for too long. Dr. Donovan, a renowned expert of online manipulation, and her prestigious team, were silenced and dismantled following a $500 million pledge from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. As a result, their work to create a collaborative public platform with a voluminous cache of internal Facebook documents never achieved its public interest vision. Dr. Donovan brought these insidious tactics to light, and the Washington Post broke the story. Anderson Cooper 360 then aired an interview with Dr. Donovan, and over a hundred media stories followed. Our client continues to brief congressional offices and testify before governments pushing for accountability.
- A second Twitter whistleblower exposes security and privacy lapses: We continued to hold Big Tech to account with our whistleblowers disclosing new insider information about Twitter, now X. This included publicly exposing “GodMode,” an internal feature which allowed Twitter staff to access and tweet from anyone’s account at any time. Moreover, this proved that Twitter was intentionally misrepresenting their activity to regulators and lawmakers. The case builds on the stunning revelations made by our client Peiter ‘Mudge’ Zatko, Twitter’s former security lead, and continues in our commitment to platform accountability.
- CDC Whistleblower exposes political pressures that likely caused thousands of Covid-19 preventable deaths: Whistleblower Aid client Dr. Daniel Wozniczka went public with his devastating experience as a CDC employee during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. He and his colleagues learned life-saving information about the virus’s transmissibility but were prevented from making it public by Trump officials with deadly consequences. We worked with The New York Times and Congress to ensure that both the public and elected officials understood the dangers of playing politics with people’s lives.
- The China Project forced to end operations: Our whistleblower, a seasoned journalist and former employee of The China Project (TCP), a U.S.-based media outlet focused on Sino-American relations, revealed that the purportedly “independent” journalism outlet was violating journalistic ethics, operating and producing news content consistent with the interests of the Chinese Communist Party. Our client experienced editorial direction and demands shocking for journalists and consistent with foreign influence operations. Last month TCP announced they would be shutting down. Senior management told reporters that a federal investigation, our client’s complaint and media coverage were factors in their closure.
- Compromised company shuts down US operations in national security case: For nearly a year, a Whistleblower Aid client worked with federal authorities investigating a company developing sensitive technology that can be harnessed by both the private sector as well as a military. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, an inter-agency committee which reviews the national security implications of foreign investments in U.S. companies or operations, conducts oversight over such activity and was active in this matter. Our client’s disclosure supported a federal investigation into the company’s leadership engaging in highly suspicious activity with individuals in the People’s Republic of China. That activity had direct implications on U.S. national security. In early December, the company announced the closure of its U.S.-based operations. We advised our client on how to navigate this fraught disclosure process while mitigating retaliation from the company.
Even beyond the success of our clients and cases, 2023 was a big year for Whistleblower Aid as an organization, with exciting growth of our team and board, a major national award, and a redesign of our website.
- Clarence B. Jones Impact Award – We were truly honored to accept The Communications Network’s most prestigious award that recognizes and celebrates the impact of transformative communications campaigns in the social sector. The award validated the success of our unique model of comprehensively supporting whistleblowers and gave us a chance to share our story with over 900 non-profit executives in a keynote delivered at their annual conference.
- Miles Taylor – We recently welcomed national security expert, former DHS official, and whistleblower Miles Taylor to the Whistleblower Aid board. Miles literally wrote the book on the imminent threat we are facing: Blowback: A Warning to Save Democracy from the Next Trump. Miles’ experience and expertise will be invaluable to our organization as we work to bolster the resiliency of our democracy, the integrity of our elections and the strength of our nation’s whistleblower protection framework going into 2024 and beyond. We were honored to partner with Miles, his producers, and iHeartPodcasts on the creation of the podcast series The Whistleblowers: Inside the Trump Administration. Notably, at the premiere event held in Washington, D.C., the Trump administration whistleblowers profiled in the series spoke about their whistleblowing journeys and passionately lauded Whistleblower Aid.
- A New Look – In 2023, we revamped our website to better promote our clients; engage with potential whistleblowers, donors, and others interested in our work; and highlight our focus areas and partners. Take a look!
- Expanding our strategic capacity: Whistleblower Aid was thrilled to have communications and accountability expert (and former client) Naomi Seligman join the team as our Chief Strategy Officer.
Whistleblower Aid has been taking on powerful institutions to support our resilient democracy, and with your ongoing support, we could not be more excited to continue and expand this work in 2024. In addition to our growing roster of clients, we are excited to introduce some timely new initiatives:
- Election protection – We will be launching an Election Protection program early next year in partnership with allied organizations across the pro-democracy movement to empower poll workers and election officials before, during, and after the 2024 elections. They are our first lines of defense in protecting the U.S. against autocracy, and Whistleblower Aid will ensure that they have the resources they need.
- Combatting foreign interference – We have seen an increase in foreign attempts to influence American democracy, and we plan to tackle those efforts head on in 2024. From election interference, cyber threats, and media manipulation, Whistleblower Aid will make this a priority area next year.
- “If only I had known” – A new innovative campaign out next year in partnership with some of our nation’s most recognizable public sector whistleblowers (including some who wished they had known the legal path and paid the price) will raise awareness of safe and legal whistleblowing avenues in national security and public service.
We could not do this work without our incredible team and supporters like you.
Thank you for your partnership in this important work and Happy New Year!