On Wednesday, The Washington Post reported that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was pausing its Disinformation Governance Board that supposedly intended to monitor issues online relating to “national security.” Shortly after, President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the body, dubbed the “Ministry of Truth” by critics, announced her resignation.
Wall Street Journal reporter Dustin Volz confirmed Wednesday morning a story first reported by The Washington Post which claimed that DHS had put the kibosh on the newly created board on Monday “amid internal confusion and uncertainty about its future.” Volz added that Nina Jankowicz, an author and “expert” on disinformation, was resigning as the board’s executive director.
“With the Board’s work paused and its future uncertain, and I have decided to leave DHS to return to my work in the public sphere,” Jankowicz said, Volz reported. “It is deeply disappointing that 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’s threats and trust the Department will do the same.”
Statement from @wiczipedia: "With the Board’s work paused and its future uncertain, and I have decided to leave DHS to return to my work in the public sphere. It is deeply disappointing that mischaracterizations of the Board became a distraction from the Department’s vital work" pic.twitter.com/AG8GjoFp1i
— Dustin Volz (@dnvolz) May 18, 2022
The Post reported that the disinformation board was not actually intended to censor speech, but rather protect it, as one source told the paper.
The Post’s source placed the blame for the board’s collapse at the hands of DHS for being unprepared to handle so-called “disinformation campaigns” from Right-wing media. The paper implied that conservatives were lying about the board, but conservatives have argued that the vagueness of the board’s mission meant it could potentially be used in conjunction with Big Tech to censor certain stories deemed “national security threats” by some gatekeepers, thereby trampling on free speech.
The board was also announced shortly after former President Barack Obama delivered a speech calling for the federal government and private leaders to work hand in hand to combat disinformation related to “national security threats.”
In late April of this year, Obama stated that he believed that “some democratic oversight” was needed on the internet to supposedly protect democracies from disinformation.
“I believe we should use every tool at our disposal to secure our greatest gift – a government of, by, and for the people – for generations to come,” he added.
Critics speculated that the board would be used towards those ends.