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Report: Biden DHS pausing disinformation board amid ‘speech police’ backlash

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas participates in a virtual conference Feb. 23, 2021. (Department of Homeland Security/Released)
May 18, 2022

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is reportedly placing its new Disinformation Governance Board on hold, amid predominantly conservative criticisms that the Biden administration effort amounts to a “speech police.”

On Wednesday Washington Post reported multiple DHS employees had said the government disinformation board had been put on hold less than a month after it was first publicly announced.

The DHS sources told the Washington Post that it had shut down the board on Monday night. The sources said the board’s inaugural executive director, Nina Jankowicz, had offered her resignation by Tuesday morning but was given the option to stay on with the board even as its work is on hold.

The DHS announced the Disinformation Governance Board on April 27 and Jankowicz announced she would lead the new office the same day. Republican lawmakers were quick to question the new board.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), blasted the board as “the first Federal Speech Police.”

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) tweeted, “The Administration that activated the FBI against parents at school board meetings now has created a government Disinformation Board to monitor all Americans’ speech. It’s a disgrace. Joe Biden & Secretary Mayorkas: dissolve this monstrosity immediately.”

This week, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and former acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell voiced their concerns that rather than targeting legitimate disinformation, the new DHS board would instead target dissenting conservative views.

Former Hawaii Democrat Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has also compared the new office to the Ministry of Truth from George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984.”

Within hours of her announcement, Jankowicz’s past controversial comments also began to resurface.

Ahead of the 2020 U.S. election, Jankowicz authored an op-ed in The Atlantic titled “Trump’s Version of Poll Watching Sounds Like Thuggery.” In response to a November 2021 report about Trump allies endorsing supporters to fill local election board seats throughout the country, Jankowicz retweeted the op-ed with the caption, “Yep. Sadly I feared this would happen when the Trump campaign injected violence into election observation last year. Now, far from just sending observers, they’re infecting the process itself.”

In September 2020 amid weeks of riots in Portland, Oregon in which participants set fires in and around police buildings, Jankowicz tweeted, “Trump talking about how he would ‘put out that fire’ in Portland is the language of authoritarianism. It means the violent clearing of protestors, arrest without cause, abuse of human rights. That’s [not] law enforcement, that’s lawlessness.”

In October of 2020, cast doubts about the New York Post’s controversial October 2020 reporting about the contents of a laptop reportedly belonging to Hunter Biden, though the laptop’s contents have since been authenticated by other news outlets.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has defended the creation of the board and the decision to place Jankowicz in charge. Mayorkas said Jankowicz was “eminently qualified” and could be “absolutely” politically neutral.

A DHS spokesperson told the Washington Post, “Nina Jankowicz has been subjected to unjustified and vile personal attacks and physical threats. 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.”

In an update shortly after breaking the story on the decision to pause the disinformation board, journalist Taylor Lorenz tweeted, “UPDATE: Nina Jankowicz has officially resigned from Disinformation Governance Board and the DHS.”