A recent announcement from President Biden and his administration has many free speech defenders alarmed, and it took place just days after Elon Musk purchased the Twitter platform in an attempt to restore free speech.
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According to Fox News, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in testimony on Wednesday that the administration has created a Disinformation Governance Board to combat online disinformation, led by Rob Silvers and Jennifer Gaskill, deputy general counsel.
“The goal is to bring the resources of the department together to address this threat,” the secretary told Congress members.
“I just read a very interesting study that underscores the importance of the point that you make, the spread of mis- and disinformation in minority communities specifically, and we are focused on that in the context of our CP3 and other efforts, and I’d be pleased to share more,” he remarked.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki stated the administration supports the new board at a press briefing.
“Secretary Mayorkas said that part of its intention was to tackle misinformation in Hispanic communities especially. Can you give us an idea of what this board is going to be doing, what their authority would look like?” asked White House correspondent Jacqui Heinrich.
Congressional staffers familiar with the issue told reporters that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had not yet held its first meeting of the Disinformation Governance Board.
According to a staffer, the board appeared “half-baked” and the Department of Homeland Security got “ahead of themselves when they mentioned it in the secretary’s testimony.” The department also admitted that the board lacked a charter during Friday’s conference call.
The congressional staffers chose to speak on background, with one saying they do not want to affect their eligibility to work with DHS and another telling us their office will only verify details of this nature in the background.
The new board was created by the Biden administration. The staffer said that the DHS doesn’t “really have direction for this board.” The source also said that Nina Jankowicz, the head of the board, kept referring to the group as visionary, noting that there appeared to be “no concrete structure to it yet.”
Recent attention has been focused on Jankowicz for her history of spreading misinformation, such as a story denying the existence of the Hunter Biden laptop.
In response to their request, the staffer said DHS had promised to share the charter once it was ready. An employee of the board says Jankowicz is also looking to add two co-chairs to work under him.
Reporters have been told that the board has not met yet and that a charter has not been approved.
Cat's out of the bag: here's what I've been up to the past two months, and why I've been a bit quiet on here.
— Nina Jankowicz 🇺🇦🇺🇸 (@wiczipedia) April 27, 2022
Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, told lawmakers on April 27 the board was formed to fight misinformation and disinformation targeted at minority communities.
Mayorkas says Jankowicz is “eminently qualified” for the task, adding that it will only investigate foreign propaganda and disinformation and not what is going on in the United States.
As Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday, the board is “a continuation of work that began at the Department of Homeland Security in 2020, under former President Trump,” she continued, “For anyone who’s critical of it, I didn’t hear them being critical of the work under the former president, which is interesting to note contextually.”
Fox News reported:
The White House is doubling down on its support for a recently-announced Department of Homeland Security initiative to combat online “disinformation” and defended the individual chosen to lead the effort whose past comments have sparked concern.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki further defended DHS’ Disinformation Governance Board and the individual chosen to serve as its director, telling Fox News White House correspondent Jacqui Heinrich that the effort is a continuation of work from former President Trump’s administration.
Asked by Heinrich how Jankowicz can serve as an effective board leader based on prior comments, which include public support for the Democratic Party and dismissal of the Hunter Biden laptop story, Psaki reiterated that the work began under the prior administration.
“For anyone who’s critical of it, I didn’t hear them being critical of the work under the former president, which is interesting to note contextually,” Psaki said as she outlined a fact sheet released by the department that explains the board’s mission.
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“This is work that is helping to address unauthorized terrorism, other threats, and see how disinformation, misinformation is being pushed, to lead, to increase those, so that’s all work that we think has been ongoing for some time,” Psaki said. “This is the form it’s taking and there’s a fact sheet that details the specifics.”
“This is an individual who will be overseeing the work of that board,” Psaki said of Jankowicz. “Personnel decisions are up to the Department of Homeland Security. I just outlined the extensive history and background this individual has, but I think what’s important to note here is doing, which is important disinformation related work that began under the former administration.”
According to a DHS spokesperson, the board had been newly formed, and was not discussed on that call. However, DHS agencies have worked on combating “disinformation” long before the board was formed.
The spokesperson said DHS has worked for years to address disinformation, saying the agency is committed to protecting “Americans’ freedom of speech, civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy.”