The Disinformation Governance Board has been paused by the Biden administration less than a month after being announced.
The board’s work has been suspended pending an advisory council review.
A part of the Department of Homeland Security, the entity was announced during a House Committee on Appropriations meeting by DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas last month. President Biden’s administration said the board would fight the spread of misinformation in order to protect public trust in democratic institutions.
It was immediately the subject of castigation and concern. Dubbed by critics as the “Ministry of Truth,” the board has been compared to a governmental organization depicted in George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984.
DHS employees confirmed to The Washington Post that the board was officially paused on May 16 following weeks of internal debate regarding the future of the progress.
Nina Jankowicz, the disinformation researcher who had been tapped to serve as executive director, had drafted her resignation by the following morning.
“Jankowicz was pulled into an urgent call with DHS officials who gave her the choice to stay on, even as the department’s work was put on hold because of the backlash it faced,” the outlet reported. “Working groups within DHS focused on mis-, dis- and mal-information have been suspended.”
The 33-year-old officially resigned from her position on the morning of May 18.
“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 wrote in a statement shared online by a Wall Street Journal reporter. “It is deeply disappointing that mischaracterizations of the Board became a distraction from the Department’s vital work”
“I maintain my commitment to building awareness of disinformation’s threats and trust the Department will do the same,” Jankowicz added.
Critics of the board, including prominent Republican politicians, have called for the board to be disbanded. Seventy members of the House Republican Conference signed a measure that would terminate the board and “prohibit the use of Federal funds to establish any other similar board.”
Colorado Representative Lauren Boebert introduced the measure last week.
“I wouldn’t trust [President Joe] Biden and his incompetent misfits to take care of one of my goats. And I certainly don’t trust them to be the arbiters of truth,” Boebert told Congress. “I trust the American people. They are more capable of looking at claims, researching facts, [and] making informed decisions.”
“Neither Nina Jankowicz nor the board have anything to do with censorship or with removing content from anywhere,” White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates told The Washington Examiner on May 18. “Their role is to ensure that national security officials are updated on how misinformation is affecting the threat environment. She has strong credentials and a history of calling out misinformation from both the Left and the Right.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana have both supported Boebert’s legislation and openly opposed the board.
“President Biden‘s disinformation governance boards must be completely dismantled,” Mr. McCarthy said on May 18 in a statement reported by The Washington Times. “It’s a scheme conjured up by Washington Democrats to grant themselves the authority to control free speech. They fear Americans having unfettered access to information because it will challenge the power they want to have over people’s lives.”
While the Disinformation Governance Board is no longer operational, it will not be officially disbanded until after the review.