After a wave of backlash, the Department of Homeland Security is considering shutting down its just-created Disinformation Governance Board, which was officially tasked with combatting false narratives around domestic terrorism and human trafficking along the border, but which was widely interpreted as having a much broader brief to monitor and possibly curtail disfavored political speech.
Just three weeks after its inception, the disinformation board’s operations have been “paused,” multiple anonymous DHS officials told the Washington Post. DHS reportedly decided to shut down the board entirely on Monday and its director, Nina Jankowicz, tendered a voluntary resignation letter on Tuesday. But DHS officials quickly called Jankowicz to give her the option to stay on while the Homeland Security Advisory Committee determines whether to shut down the board entirely.
As soon as her role was announced, Jankowicz — who served as a disinformation fellow at a think tank before joining the administration — was harshly criticized for her record and online behavior, which included her vocal discrediting of the now-verified Hunter Biden laptop story and her support for Christopher Steele, the author of the discredited dossier on former president Donald Trump that helped launch the Mueller probe into his 2016 campaign.
“Nina Jankowicz has been subjected to unjustified and vile personal attacks and physical threats,” a DHS spokesperson told the Post in a statement. “In congressional hearings and in media interviews, the Secretary has repeatedly defended her as eminently qualified and underscored the importance of the Department’s disinformation work, and he will continue to do so.”
Many Republicans viewed the board with skepticism, given that its mission was not well articulated by the Biden administration, suspicious that it would primarily seek to target right-wing thought on social media platforms and elsewhere. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on NBC’s Meet the Press that the body “could have done a better job of communicating what it is and what it isn’t.” Some conservative pundits mocked the board for its authoritarian-sounding purpose, satirically calling it the “Ministry of Truth.”