The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Disinformation Governance Board (DGB) was planning to serve as a central clearinghouse to respond to matters that the government unilaterally deemed to be mis-, dis- or mal-information (MDM).
The controversial DGB also was planning to coordinate efforts with social media platforms to enable censorship or removal of user content, when necessary.
That's according to internal DHS documents disclosed by protected whistleblowers. The documents were obtained by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Josh Hawley (R-Missouri).
The senators are now calling on DHS to turn over additional materials related to the government's efforts to partner with Big Tech platforms to enforce its agenda.
In a letter sent to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, the senators wrote:
The First Amendment of the Constitution was designed precisely so that the government could not censor opposing viewpoints – even if those viewpoints were false. DHS should not in any way seek to enlist the private sector to curb or silence opposing viewpoints. It is therefore imperative for DHS to provide additional clarity regarding its policies and procedures for identifying and addressing ‘MDM,’ as well as its efforts to ‘operationalize’ public-private partnerships and the steps it is taking to ensure that it does not infringe on the constitutional rights of American citizens.”Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Josh Hawley (R-Missouri), Senate Judiciary Committee
The records reveal that the DGB was designed to exert powerful influence over government efforts to crack down on disinformation in areas where there are “clear, objective facts.”
However, it remains unclear how DHS was planning to define “clear, objective facts.” The federal government itself has been one of the major purveyors of proven disinformation regarding Covid-19, the 2020 election and other controversies.
The documents also illustrate that DHS was not just focused on foreign disinformation, but also issues at the heart of longstanding political debate such as theories about the validity of elections, the origins and effects of Covid-19 vaccines, and the efficacy of wearing masks.
Nina Jankowicz was tapped to be the DGB’s executive director despite her long and well-documented history of embracing and spreading disinformation aimed at undermining Republican political figures, including President Trump.
Jankowicz also had strong ties and connections to Twitter executives, including the head of policy and the head of site integrity.
“Given the significant coordinating role the Department envisioned for the DGB, the consequences of installing Nina Jankowicz, a known trafficker of foreign disinformation and liberal conspiracy theories, as the DGB’s first Executive Director, would have been a disaster,” the senators wrote.
Following public scrutiny, Jankowicz resigned from the board, which DHS has reportedly “paused" amid a widespread public outcry over the Orwellian overtones of government playing censor.
In their letter, the senators raised a number of questions regarding how DHS determines what matters to prioritize.
They are also seeking records related to communications regarding DHS’ efforts to enlist the cooperation of social media platforms to advance its policy goals.
The letter and records provided to the senators are available HERE.
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