The Department of Homeland Security is setting up a Disinformation Governance Board in an attempt to combat “misinformation” online.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas discussed the “just established” governance board during a congressional hearing on Wednesday, arguing it would help reduce domestic threats to the United States.
Mayorkas has also said the board will be used to help migrants. Last year President Joe Biden’s immigration policies combined with messages shared widely across the Haitian community on Meta’s Facebook and WhatsApp platforms led some of the 14,000 migrants to the border town of Del Rio, Texas, where they set up camp. Some were ultimately expelled and were flown out of the U.S.
“We are very concerned that Haitians who are taking the irregular migration path are receiving misinformation that the border is open,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said at the time.
The team will focus on irregular migration and Russia, according to a report from Politico’s Daniel Lippman.
Nina Jankowicz, who is a fellow for the Wilson Center, confirmed reports that she would direct the board, sharing her official government portrait on her social media profile. “Cat’s out of the bag: here’s what I’ve been up to the past two months,” she wrote.
In October 2020, Jankowicz testified to the House Select Committee on Intelligence on the dangers of misinformation and conspiracy theories and how to stop it online.
“Disinformation is a threat to democracy,” she warned and criticized the government and social media platforms who have “all but abdicated their responsibility” to address ”domestic disinformation.”
She also hailed Twitter’s efforts to censor users during the 2020 election and urged more technology companies to follow their example. “Twitter is the best example of a platform moving in the right direction in this context, but the U.S. political environment would be better served by more transparency and equity around its enforcement of these measures,” she said.
When pressed by a reporter about the situation, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday that she needed to learn more about it but defended the board’s mission.
“It sounds like the objective of the board is to prevent disinformation and misinformation from traveling around the country in a range of communities,” Psaki said. “I’m not sure who opposes that effort.”
There are those who are concerned the board will impede free speech.
“The federal government is supposed to not impede free speech, and that’s exactly what this board is going to do,” said Lora Ries, a former DHS deputy chief of staff and director of the Heritage Foundation’s Border Security and Immigration Center. “It’s not at all part of the mission of the Department of Homeland Security.”
Critics swiftly compared the board to the Ministry of Truth in George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984. One of the key concerns is who will decide what constitutes disinformation, Ries added. On this measure, the disinformation board attracted additional scrutiny.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: ALL SIDES