DHS Disinformation Board ‘Paused’ After Criticism, Chief Resigns
The official tapped to lead the board resigned Wednesday.
Only three weeks after the Department of Homeland Security launched a Disinformation Governance Board to counter misinformation, its future is in doubt and its top official has announced her resignation.
Following a torrent of criticism from Republican lawmakers, disinformation and extremism expert Nina Jankowicz resigned Wednesday, and—as first reported by the Washington Post—the board itself has been “paused” pending a review and assessment through the bipartisan Homeland Security Advisory Council.
“The Board has been grossly and intentionally mischaracterized: 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,” a DHS spokesperson told Nextgov. “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.”
According to DHS, the assessment will answer how DHS can effectively address disinformation that poses a threat to the nation while balancing privacy rights, and how DHS can achieve improved transparency on its disinformation with the public and stakeholders.
The board’s rollout did little to address concerns over its constitutionality voiced by lawmakers nor to quell falsehoods spread on social media platforms regarding the board’s actual intent. According to a DHS spokesperson, Jankowicz bore the brunt of attacks originating online and “was subjected to unjustified and vile personal attacks and physical threats.” The spokesperson added she was “eminently qualified to do this work.”
In a statement, Jankowicz said she made the decision to resign once the board was paused.
“After six years dedicated to the study of disinformation and best practices in responding to it, I joined the Department of Homeland Security to be the executive director of the Disinformation Governance Board with the intention of supporting the Department’s important work addressing disinformation that affects the homeland,” Jankowicz said. “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, and indeed, along with recent events globally and nationally, embodies why it is necessary.”
Republicans rejoiced at the board’s suspension.
“The suspension of the DHS Disinformation Governance Board is by far the best decision that’s been made when it comes to this Orwellian entity. From its initially botched rollout, the ‘Ministry of Truth’ lacked a defined mission or even direction. It was clear it was a political tool to be wielded by the party in control,” said Reps. John Katko, R-N.Y., ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, and Mike Turner, R-Ohio, ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, in a joint statement.
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