DHS Disinformation Board is Put on Pause, Pending Review - Report
© AP Photo / Lynne SladkyA U.S. Department of Homeland Security plaque is displayed a podium as international passengers arrive at Miami international Airport where they are screened by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Nov. 20, 2020, in Miami
© AP Photo / Lynne Sladky
On April 27, the Department of Homeland Security announced the creation of the Disinformation Governance Board. The announcement brought widespread criticism from conservatives.
The Biden administration has announced that the highly controversial Disinformation Governance Board is being put on “pause.” Nina Jankowicz, who was tapped to head the new board, resigned from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The news was first broken by The Washington Post, which characterized criticisms of Jankowicz and the disinformation board as a “coordinated online campaign” by “far-right influencers” who misrepresented the board’s goal and mission.
The White House announced the board just three weeks ago, saying it was designed to help the DHS fight disinformation from Russia, China, and Iran as well as at the border.
A DHS spokesperson told the New York Post that the department was intentionally mischaracterized online. “It was never about censorship or policing speech in any manner. It was designed to ensure we fulfill our mission to protect the homeland, while protecting core Constitutional rights. However, false attacks have become a significant distraction from the Department’s vitally important work to combat disinformation that threatens the safety and security of the American people.”
The irony that the disinformation board was being paused and its leader ousted because of alleged disinformation was not lost on Fox News White House journalist Peter Doocy, who asked White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre about just that.
Doocy to Press Sec. Jean-Pierre: "The disinformation board is being shutdown because of disinformation?" pic.twitter.com/jHxDji9eZM— The Post Millennial (@TPostMillennial) May 18, 2022
In a statement announcing her departure, Jankowicz said, “mischaracterizations of the Board became a distraction from the Department’s vital work, and indeed, along with recent events globally and nationally, embodies why it is necessary. I maintain my commitment to building awareness of disinformation threats and trust the Department will do the same.”
According to The Washington Post, the decision to pause the board came from the DHS on Monday and they offered to let Jankowicz stay on in the interim, but she refused.
Critics of the disinformation board likened it to the Ministry of Truth from George Orwell’s 1984 dystopian novel and took issue with Jankowicz herself. The Disinformation Governance Board was created to study disinformation to aid the DHS and would have no power to determine what is the truth or make operational decisions.
27 April 2022, 23:39 GMT
Criticism aimed at Jankowicz was far-reaching. She had recently said that verified Twitter users should be able to edit posts to add context to claims and was subjected to significant ridicule online when users found a video of her singing a parody of a Mary Poppins song, modifying the lyrics to address the dangers of fake news.
Republicans celebrated the news that the department was being paused and Jankowicz was stepping down. But the announcement was also well-received by some left-wing free speech advocates who worried about how a disinformation board would be utilized by future administrations, including a potential Trump presidency in 2024.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, best known for publishing the Snowden files in 2013, called the news a “cause of momentary celebration” and likened Jankowicz to an “absurd #Resistance cartoon.”
Prior to the board’s pause, Jankowicz also received criticism on May 12 in The Nation, which called out her previous work with StopFake.
StopFake was created in 2014 in Ukraine after the Maidan uprising ushered in a new government that was handpicked by the United States. Ostensibly, the group was created to combat Russian disinformation.
However, according to The Nation, StopFake was funded by the National Endowment for Democracy, as well as George Soro’s Open Society Foundation. It regularly spoke about Soros without mentioning his funding of the organization.
Additionally and perhaps more significantly, StopFake and Jankowicz frequently whitewashed the far-right and neo-nazi elements of the Ukrainian volunteer battalions.
StopFake is also an official fact-checking partner of Facebook, giving it the power to censor news on the platform.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has asked the Homeland Security Advisory Council to lead a review of the disinformation board, asking for its final recommendation to come within 75 days. Even if the board does come back, it will be without Jankowicz.