Biden's Disinformation board getting sh-tcanned? Spritzler Report saved from scrapheap.
I don't mind telling you I was a little nervous. Talk about having your "meal ticket" gutted by the Federales. We don't exactly fact check anything here at the Report. If I think it, you read it. Besides, why let the facts ruin a perfectly good story.
Maybe I should rebrand to the Spritzler Disinformation Register. Has a nice ring to it.
DHS Disinformation Board ‘Paused’ Following Backlash
Proposed board to combat online disinformation drew opposition from critics who called it Orwellian
The Department of Homeland Security intended the new body to support efforts against online disinformation.
By Dustin Volz, WSJ
Updated May 18, 2022 2:24 pm ET
WASHINGTON—The Department of Homeland Security said “work will be paused” on a new government board intended to support efforts to combat online disinformation, in the face of widespread criticism from conservatives who accused its mission of being Orwellian.
The new body, the existence of which emerged publicly in April, had been intended to work on countering disinformation that it deemed a threat to homeland security. Examples of such cited by DHS officials included misleading information used by smugglers to persuade migrants to travel to the U.S.-Mexico border and disinformation spread by foreign states such as Russia ahead of the midterm elections.
A DHS spokeswoman confirmed in a statement that the board had been put on pause as former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, who served during the George W. Bush administration, and former Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick, a Clinton administration official, lead a review of the department’s disinformation work and how to increase public trust in those endeavors. The review should be completed within 75 days, the spokeswoman said.
The spokeswoman said the board had been “grossly and intentionally mischaracterized,” and that “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.” Efforts to address disinformation—which largely began prior to the Biden administration—would continue, the spokeswoman said.
The board didn’t convene a single time before being suspended, and the decision to halt its work was made by department leadership, according to a senior DHS official. The Washington Post first reported that the board has been put on hold by DHS.
Some Republicans in Congress raised concerns that the board would seek to infringe on First Amendment protections on free speech, with some drawing comparisons to George Orwell’s state-sponsored, propaganda-pushing Ministry of Truth in his dystopian novel “1984.”
The board also drew negative commentary from a wide spectrum of voices on Twitter and other social media, including the American Civil Liberties Union, which said it was “eerily named.” Elon Musk, the billionaire currently working to buy Twitter, who has said he wants to lift its restrictions on controversial posts, called the board “messed up.”
Several senior DHS officials privately said the messaging and rollout of the board was flawed and poorly coordinated with other arms of DHS and the rest of the administration, and DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas publicly expressed similar shortcomings in interviews.
DHS didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Att the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency within DHS, some officials worried the board and the backlash it attracted would undermine its continuing efforts to combat election-related disinformation, efforts that have historically enjoyed some bipartisan support, The Wall Street Journal previously reported.
The board’s executive director, Nina Jankowicz, described the board’s future as uncertain and said she had decided to leave the board and DHS to return to work “in the public sphere.”
Ms. Jankowicz, a disinformation researcher with expertise in Russian information operations who previously was a fellow at the Wilson Center, a Washington-based think tank, was specifically attacked by Republicans and others online who criticized her, sometimes personally, for what they called past partisan comments. These included a tweet during the 2020 presidential election about then-President Donald Trump and Russia that drew derision from conservatives. She said last month that her tweet was taken out of context and was “simply a direct quote from both candidates during the final presidential debate.”
“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,” Ms. Jankowicz said in a statement on Wednesday. “I maintain my commitment to building awareness of disinformation’s threats and trust the department will do the same.”
In her book, “How to Lose the Information War,” Ms. Jankowicz analyzes how several different Eastern European countries have recently sought to improve their societal resilience to disinformation campaigns, often with government-led programs.
Write to Dustin Volz at email@example.com
Appeared in the May 19, 2022, print edition as 'DHS