Nina Jankowicz resigned from the Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday.
She had been chosen to lead the Disinformation Governance Board, sparking outcry from conservatives.
Prominent right-wing pundits and infeluncers led a campaign attacking Jankowicz.
Nina Jankowicz, the author and researcher appointed to lead the Department of Homeland Security's new Disinformation Governance Board, resigned from the DHS on Wednesday, representatives for Jankowicz told Insider. The decision follows weeks of targeted harassment against Jankowicz from right-wing critics, as well as broad conservative criticism of the anti-misinformation initiative.
"With the Board's work paused and its future uncertain, and [sic] I have decided to leave DHS to return to my work in the public sphere," Jankowicz said in a statement emailed to Insider via a spokesperson. "It is deeply disappointing that mischaracterizations of the Board became a distraction from the Department's vital work."
Jankowicz's departure comes after The Washington Post first reported on Wednesday that the DHS had paused the Board's activities and suspended working groups centered around dis-, mis-, and mal-information amid the criticism.
The Board will remain on pause as the Homeland Security Advisory Council conducts a "thorough review and assessment" related to improving the Board's transparency, public trust, and ability to fight disinformation, the DHS said in a statement to Insider.
The DHS said the Board has been "grossly and intentionally mischaracterized" in its statement.
Right-wing pundits and media influencers specifically targeted Jankowicz, combing through her social media history to mock clips such as her singing a misinformation-themed "Mary Poppins" song on TikTok and framing her as a biased ideologue bent on censorship. Far-right forums soon became filled with violent and misogynist attacks against her.
"It's unfortunate that something that she was chosen to do, because of this very issue, is the same reason why she's stepped back," Sara Aniano, a disinformation and extremism researcher, told Insider of Jankowicz's resignation. "I mean, I get it. I understand as a female in this space. I saw the harassment from the get-go towards her."
Since the Board was announced at the close of April, conservative influencers and Republican politicians framed the project as an attempt from the Biden administration to install an Orwellian "Ministry of Truth." The board was disparaged by a slew of prominent conservatives, from Fox News host Tucker Carlson and far-right conspiracist Jordan Sather to Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Kevin McCarthy.
Despite repeated attempts from the DHS and the White House to clarify the Board's purpose — to counter misinformation from abroad, including malicious attacks targeting migrants and Russian disinformation — the unfounded rhetoric from critics continued.
The DHS initially decided to shut down the Board entirely on Monday following the backlash, but changed tack and gave Jankowicz the possibility of staying on as the Board's work was paused, according to The Washington Post, which cited sources close to the project.
The board's shaky rollout and the immediate right wing uproar put it on unsteady footing from the start. Aniano previously told Insider she was skeptical of the Board's future and that it would have to do excellent work or else "the initiative will fail, because people are already very wary on the right of government oversight and overreach."
Now that the board's future is uncertain, Aniano said there is even more pressure to produce valuable work and salvage the government's flailing disinformation initiative.
"They would really have had to knock this out of the park for it to be truly effective," Aniano told Insider after Jankowicz's resignation. "Not only is that not happening, but it seems that they've started to succumb to the very thing that they wanted to help prevent, which is misinformation, disinformation, conspiracy theories."
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