The Biden administration has “paused” its controversial plans to create a Disinformation Governance Board, prompting the incoming executive director to offer her resignation.
Don’t call it a victory for the right until you see how the decision is being explained.
The Department of Homeland Security has put the launch of the disinformation board on hold following a “disastrous” rollout and backlash from conservatives and others, The Washington Post first reported Wednesday.
- The Post’s tech columnist, Taylor Lorenz, broke the news, citing “multiple employees at DHS.”
- DHS decided to shut down the board Monday, and the would-be executive director, Nina Jankowicz, drafted a resignation letter by Tuesday morning, per Lorenz.
- But on Tuesday night, DHS instead suspended its work on “mis-, dis- and mal-information” and gave Jankowicz the opportunity to stay on while the fate of the board was determined.
DHS confirmed to CNN later Wednesday that the disinformation board was on pause and its work was under review.
- Jankowicz said she was resigning because she was unsure the board had a future after the “debacle” of the past few weeks.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
While critics celebrated the collapse of the so-called Ministry of Truth, DHS officials, and in turn Lorenz, framed the story as further proof of the need for just such a government regulator.
“The Board’s purpose has been grossly mischaracterized; it will not police speech,” a DHS spokesperson told Lorenz. “Quite the opposite, its focus is to ensure that freedom of speech is protected.”
- “The irony is that Nina’s role was to come up with strategies for the department to counter this type of campaign, and now they’ve just succumbed to it themselves,” said an anonymous person “with knowledge of the situation.” “They didn’t even fight, they just rolled over.”
- “We’re going to need another Nina down the road,” an anonymous DHS staffer said. “And anyone who takes that position is going to be vulnerable to a disinformation campaign or attack.
“Jankowicz’s experience is a prime example of how the right-wing Internet apparatus operates, where far-right influencers attempt to identify a target, present a narrative and then repeat mischaracterizations across social media and websites with the aim of discrediting and attacking anyone who seeks to challenge them,” wrote Lorenz of widespread mockery and criticism of the 33-year-old disinformation expert.
- “It also shows what happens when institutions, when confronted with these attacks, don’t respond effectively.”
- Lorenz did not specify which references to Jankowicz’s work were allegedly “right-wing disinformation.”
- She had previously complained in public that her former employer, The New York Times, didn’t do enough to support her “brand” or to defend her from critics.