Just three weeks after Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced via Congressional hearings that a “Disinformation Governance Board” was in the works. The board was intended to work with social media platforms and other public entities in order to prevent disinformation from disproportionately affecting minorities, particularly during the midterm election cycle. The board would be lead by Nina Jankowicz, a former global fellow who worked primarily with the Wilson Center, who was known for her book, How to Lose the Information War.
Jankowicz is said to have drafted a resignation letter, although she hasn’t formally turned the letter in to DHS officials.
In April, when Mayorkas made the announcement to a House Appropriations Committee, the idea drew swift and widespread criticism from conservatives across the country. The hearing took place two days after Elon Musk had announced his intentions to purchase Twitter and promote the idea of free speech on the platform. Many critics believed the DHS move to create a Disinformation Board was in response to Musk’s purchase.
The Department of Homeland Security says that Ms. Jankowicz came under “personal attack” as a result of the conservative backlash. A Tiktok video of Ms. Jankowicz singing a song about disinformation to the tune of a Mary Poppins song surfaced and made the rounds of both conservative news outlets and social media platforms. Politicians and political pundits both criticized statements made by Jankowicz in the past that had ultimately proven to be disinformation itself.
Jankowicz tweeted about the Steele dossier as well as comments about the Hunter Biden laptop – both which have been eventually confirmed. Jankowicz has made other comments about foreign policy that have also been debunked.
The Disinformation Governance Board had been compared to the Orwellian Ministry of Truth in the novel 1984, and proponents of free speech vocalized great concern over the idea of such a government agency.
The Washington Post released a story on Jankowicz and the proposed Disinformation Governance Board. The author proposed that Jankowicz had undergone personal attacks based on a few comments or Tiktok videos. However, Jankowicz has a record of being wrong and promoting incorrect information. Her record prompted as many as twenty states to threaten legal action against the Department of Homeland Security unless the agency disbanded the proposed Governance Board.
The White House defended Jankowicz while also defending the idea of a disinformation board. White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates told Fox News: “These smears leveled by bad-faith, rightwing actors against a deeply qualified expert and against efforts to better combat human smuggling and domestic terrorism are disgusting; neither Nina Jankowicz nor the board have anything to do with censorship or with removing content from anywhere.”
The Republican leaders who threatened legal action called the idea of the Disinformation Governance Board was “chilling to the free speech of Americans” and “unAmerican.” Many Americans agreed, freshly buoyed by the announcement that Elon Musk would encourage more free speech on social media platforms like Twitter.
The White House clapped back that the Disinformation board would always operate in a “nonpartisan, apolitical” matter. However, Mayorkas spoke about the creation of the Board at a time when the left appeared to be concerned that a lack of censorship on a platform such as Twitter “would lead to the spread of false information.”
Musk has promised to give all political beliefs a voice on Twitter, referring to it as the digital public town square. Musk himself has come under fire after announcing the proposal to buy Twitter and take it private. Elon Musk has posted polls regarding an edit button, and he even posted a cartoon that depicts himself moving more from a “centrist on the left” position politically to more of a centrist on the right. Musk even posted a tweet in which he said that he would be voting for a Republican in the upcoming election, something he’s never done before.
Jankowicz has a resignation letter drafted, but the letter has not been sent to DHS officials. It is unclear whether the Disinformation Board will ever come to fruition.