Disinformation Governance Board


The Disinformation Governance Board, an advisory board of the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), was announced on April 27, 2022. The Board’s function is to protect national security by disseminating guidance to DHS agencies on combating foreign misinformation and disinformation. Specific problem areas mentioned include false information propagated by human smugglers encouraging migrants to surge to the Mexico–United States border, as well as Russian-state disinformation on election interference and the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.[1][2]

The Disinformation Governance Board was announced by the DHS on April 27, 2022, during a 2023 budget hearing before the United States House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security.[1] The board had begun operating two months prior to the announcement. The DHS had decided to form the board in 2021 after conducting research that recommended creating a group to “review questions of privacy and civil liberty for online content”.[2] White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that the board is the “continuation of work that began in the DHS in 2020 under former President Trump“.[3] The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has previously addressed the spread of what they referred to as “mis-, dis-, and malinformation”.[4]

After the board was formed, Nina Jankowicz was named executive director. She was previously a fellow at the Wilson Center, advised the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry as part of the Fulbright Public Policy Fellowship, oversaw Russia and Belarus programs at the National Democratic Institute, and wrote the book How to Lose the Information War: Russia, Fake News, and the Future of Conflict.[5][6][7] Robert P. Silvers and Jennifer Daskal were also named to hold leadership positions on the board.[5]

Alejandro Mayorkas, the Secretary of Homeland Security, stated that the board would have no operational authority or capability but would collect best practices for dissemination to DHS organizations already tasked with defending against disinformation threats,[8] and asserted the board would not monitor American citizens.[9] John Cohen, the former acting head of the intelligence branch of the DHS, said that the board would study policy questions, best practices, and academic research on disinformation, and then submit guidance to the DHS secretary on how different DHS agencies should conduct analysis of online content.[2]On May 2, 2022, the DHS released a statement which said that the board would monitor disinformation spread by “foreign states such as Russia, China, and Iran” and “transnational criminal organizations and human smuggling organizations”, and disinformation spread during natural disasters (listing as an example misinformation spread about the safety of drinking water during Hurricane Sandy). The DHS added that “The Department is deeply committed to doing all of its work in a way that protects Americans’ freedom of speech, civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy.”[2][10]

Republican lawmakers and pundits criticized the board after its formation, with some calling for it to be disbanded. Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) opined that “Homeland Security has decided to make policing Americans’ speech its top priority”.[1] Some critics, including Florida governor Ron DeSantis[11] and former Democratic representative for Hawaii Tulsi Gabbard, likened the board to the Ministry of Truth, a fictional governmental department in George Orwell‘s dystopian novel 1984.[4][8]Republicans criticized Jankowicz’s appointment, citing her past support of Democrats and her skepticism of the provenance of Hunter Biden’s laptop; Jankowicz had previously said that “we should view [the laptop] as a Trump campaign product”.[4] The Washington Examiner levied criticism against Jankowicz due to her praise of Christopher Steele (author of the Steele dossier, which the Examiner deemed “discredited”) for his views on disinformation during an August 2020 podcast.[12]

Writing for National ReviewJim Geraghty lauded the board’s potential to dispel information disseminated by human smugglers on the southern border, as well as monitoring messages from terrorist and extremist groups, but objected to Jankowicz’s appointment.[4][13] In a press conference, Jen Psaki defended Jankowicz’s appointment to the board, stating that Jankowicz is “an expert on online disinformation… this is a person with extensive qualifications”.[14][15]

DHS secretary Alejandro Mayorkas later acknowledged his department could have done a better job of communicating the purpose of the new board, but asserted the Republican criticisms were “precisely the opposite” of what it would do. He stated that the board would have no operational authority or capability and would not monitor American citizens.[9] On 3 May 2022, Mayorkas appeared before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security to respond to criticism the board received from Republican lawmakers. He vowed to work on building greater public trust in the board, and said that “The Department of Homeland Security is not going to be the truth police. That is the farthest thing from the truth. We protect the security of the homeland.”[16][17]


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