On April 27, the Department of Homeland Security announced the new Disinformation Governance Board, a group within the federal agency that focuses on examining the best ways to combat rampant online lies and misleading content perceived as a threat to national security. SLess than a month later, however, the board has entered the final flop era. seen.
InSeenin for conservatives, the board’s controversially appointed executive director Nina Jankowicz resigned Wednesday morning, The board is being “paused” this week, as first reported by the Washington Post. A DHS spokesperson confirmed the hiatus in an email to Gizmodo.
In her resignation announcement, Jankowicz said: “Now that the Council’s work has been paused and the future is uncertain, I have decided to leave DHS to return to my work in the public sphere. It is deeply disappointing that mischaracterizations of the board of directors became a distraction from the essential work of the Department, and indeed, along with recent events globally and nationally, embodies why it is necessary.”
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas had been trying to defend her recently, at least on some platforms, but it was not enough.
“Nina Jankowicz was subjected to unwarranted and despicable personal attacks and physical threats,” the DHS spokesperson wrote to Gizmodo. “As the Secretary has repeatedly said in Congressional hearings and media interviews, Nina is eminently qualified to do this job. We know she will continue to be a leader in this field.”
From the Department of Homeland Security:
“To help instill confidence in our work, Secretary Mayorkas has asked former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff and former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick to lead a thorough review and review conducted by the bipartisan Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC). This assessment will focus on answering two central questions. First, how can the ministry most effectively and adequately address disinformation threatening our country while protecting freedom of expression, civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy? Second, how can DHS achieve greater transparency about our work on disinformation and build trust with the public and other key stakeholders? The Secretary requested the HSAC’s final recommendations within 75 days. During the review of the HSAC, the council will not meet, and its work will be interrupted. Still, the ministry’s crucial work in various administrations to address disinformation that threatens the security of our country will continue.”
The board’s rollout was unstable from the start, and its mission and purpose were a bit publicly vague, but disinformation eventually stopped the DGB. A right-wing, online troll campaign started with Jankowicz’s first tweet about her new role. The defamation began when Jack Posobiec, a far-right influencer, started tweeting a storm in response to Jankowicz, aiming to discredit Jankowicz and compare the disinfo board to Orwell’s “1984” Ministry of Truth in an episode of his podcast.
From there, the cases flowed into tens of thousands of posts criticizing DHS, the board’s founding, and Jankowicz himself, often in horrific, misogynistic, and anti-Semitic ways, as noted by the Associated Press.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt posted a two-page letter and multiple accompanying tweets describing the disinfo board as a “threat to free speech.” Louisiana Congressman Mike Johnson introduced a house law to “downgrade Biden’s ‘Ministry of Truth’,” prompting other Republican politicians to board. Mitt Romney called the board a “terrible idea.” Then, of course, there was Fox News.
“The administration has been grossly and deliberately mischaracterized: it was never about censorship or police speech in any way,” the DHS spokesperson wrote to Gizmodo.
Instead, “it was intended to ensure coordination between the Department’s various agencies as they protect Americans from misinformation that threatens the homeland — including malicious attempts disseminated by foreign adversaries, people smugglers, and transnational criminal organizations. It is designed to ensure that we fulfill our mission to protect the homeland while protecting fundamental constitutional rights,” the spokesperson added.
A DHS factsheet on disinformation threats provides additional details, though it’s still quite opaque. (Gizmodo has the main part, the ending, in bold.)
The Department identifies misinformation that threatens the homeland through publicly available sources, research conducted by academic and other institutions, and information shared by other federal agencies and partners. DHS then shares factual information about its mission with potentially affected people and organizations.
The Department is deeply committed to doing all of its work in a manner that protects the freedom of expression, civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy of Americans. The Disinformation Governance Board is an internal working group created to ensure that these safeguards are appropriately integrated into DHS’s disinformation-related work and that strict safeguards are in place. The working group also seeks to coordinate the Department’s commitments on this topic with other federal agencies and a wide range of outside stakeholders. The working group has no operational authority or capacity.
Jankowicz, the target of much of the far-right hatred, was theoretically appointed to lead the board because of her experience investigating Russian disinformation. She wrote a book titled “How to Lose the Information War” and another on resisting harassment as a woman online.
Sadly, she also posted a viral musical Tiktok that mentioned Rudy Giuliani, reportedly defended Hunter Biden in public amid his laptop scandal, and commented about verified Twitter users “adding context” to others’ misleading tweets, which were misinterpreted as regular site users could have their posts edited. All the above (and more) were part of the right-wing campaign against Jankowicz.