The Department of Homeland Security has suspended work on its recently announced Disinformation Governance Council, according to The Washington Post. Board director Nina Jankowicz also resigned following a relentless stream of harassment. The Post first reported Jankowicz’s resignation, and Protocol has since confirmed it.
Deployment of the board was shoddy, even by DHS Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas’ own admission. From the outset, DHS revealed almost nothing about the board’s goals or powers, raising concerns that this new entity is monitoring social media and deciding what does or does not constitute misinformation. Conservatives also quickly pounced on Jankowicz, accusing him of being a partisan hack. According to the Post, DHS has banned Jankowicz from saying anything publicly in his own defense.
In truth, the council’s purpose, Mayorkas explained far too late, was to do the opposite of what it was accused of. Throughout the DHS, agencies are already working on ways to combat misinformation and disinformation. The purpose of the council was to coordinate these efforts and ensure that they did not cross boundaries when it came to free speech and privacy.
But the decision to do so publicly rather than through a private audit has drawn undue scrutiny of the effort. As a source familiar with DHS plans recently told Protocol, “Having a very large governance board and a very large public rollout with a very well-known person in this space running it very publicly, that probably increased their risk. a little more than necessary.”
In a statement, DHS spokesman Angelo Fernandez said the advice was “grossly and intentionally misrepresented” and confirmed that the Homeland Security Advisory Council is currently conducting a review of the advice in hopes of responding. to two questions. “First, how can the Department most effectively and appropriately address disinformation that poses a threat to our country, while protecting free speech, civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy. Second , how can DHS achieve greater transparency in our work related to disinformation and build trust with the public and other key stakeholders,” Fernandez said.
Final recommendations are due within 75 days, during which time the board’s work will be suspended.
Among the council’s critics were not only the usual suspects in conservative circles, but also platform regulators and legal experts who feared the well had already been poisoned. Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos also got in on the act, with Bezos Tweeter this week that the newly created “Disinformation Council should revisit” one of President Biden’s tweets about taxing the rich to fight inflation.
This story has been updated to include comments from DHS.