Any time a government decides what people are allowed to think or say is a dangerous time. Late last year, the United States Government established and then paused through the Department of Homeland Security an entity called the Disinformation Governance Board. The DGB’s supposed purpose was to pose as a “working group” to “develop guidelines, standards, [and] guardrails” for protecting civil rights and civil liberties. However, whistleblower documents from within the Department of Homeland Security reveal a drastically different intent.
First and foremost, the DGB planned to “operationalize” its relationships with private social media companies and their executives in order to direct the removal of content. In fact, the DGB had already potentially met with Twitter executives Nick Pickles, Head of Policy, and Yoel Roth, Head of Site Integrity. According to the documents, the Disinformation Governance Board set the meeting for April 28th, 2022.
The documents obtained by Senator Charles Grassley and Josh Hawley paint a very dark picture regarding free speech. Under the United States Constitution; “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” However, through a partnership and in line with a Social Media company’s ‘terms of service,’ the DGB could have easily directed that specific ‘unwanted’ content be removed.
According to the document released by Senator Grassley and Hawley; “In fact, DHS documents show that the DGB was designed to be the Department’s central hub, clearinghouse, and gatekeeper for Administration policy and response to whatever it happened to decide was “disinformation.” Specifically, documents describe a prominent DGB designed to “serve as the departmental forum for governance of DHS policies, plans, procedures, standards, and activities” pertaining to what the government refers to as “mis-, dis-, and mal- information,” or “MDM,” “that threatens homeland security” as well as the Department’s internal and external point of contact for coordination with state and local partners, non-governmental actors, and the private sector. Internal DHS memoranda also show that in practice, the DGB was expected to function as a “coordination and deconfliction mechanism… conven[ing] to discuss threats, assessments, response actions, and engagements as often as warranted.”
In other words, the documents point to the exact concern of many; that the Disinformation Governance Board was explicitly designed to counter anti-administration messages, speech, or posts. Moreover, the documents obtained by the Senators show specifically that in some way, shape or form was the intent of the Administration’s DGB.
Currently, the DGB is on pause – but what exactly does that mean? According to the Washington Post, the DGB was paused because the tapped ‘Director’ Nina Jankowicz came under ‘coordinated online attacks.’ However, what was shared regarding Nina, are her statements and tweets showing that she was biased. In fact, the tweets shared actually contained false information. When the Director of the Disinformation Governance Board shares disinformation, the entity itself should come under intense scrutiny. Senator Hawley pointed to some of her comments regarding her bias.
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- “In 2020, she described President Trump’s use of the national guard as “a sentence I expect to hear from leaders of authoritarian countries, not the President of the United States.”
- “In 2021, she quoted with praise an article that said, “homegrown fascism predated President Donald Trump.”
- “She has said America is systemically racist.”
- “In response to revelations about Hunter Biden’s laptop, she tweeted that “50 former natsec officials and five former CIA heads that believe the laptop is a Russian influence op. Trump says, ‘Russia, Russia, Russia.”
- “Jankowicz has claimed that “the ‘free speech vs. censorship’ framing is a false dichotomy.”
In closing, the release from the Senators directs Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, to respond to their line of questioning surrounding these disturbing revelations by June 21st, 2022. In the meantime, the DGB is still on pause – if you would like to view the document released by the Senators, please see here.