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The Disinformation Board Is Dead

The board would have cracked down on opinions that undermine the electoral interests of the Democratic Party.

The Department of Homeland Security is reportedly “pausing” its Disinformation Governance Board less than a month after its launch. Nina Jankowicz, the activist appointed to run the board, has apparently resigned.

The DHS working group was formed on April 27 with the Orwellian mandate of countering “misinformation related to homeland security.” The upshot of that mission was made clear when Jankowicz, a self-described “internationally recognized expert” on “misinformation,” was tapped to lead the board.

Jankowicz was a one-time fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center, where she studied “gendered and sexualized disinformation campaigns against women in politics,” the prevalence of “transphobic” narratives in online discourse, and the “lack of intersectional expertise in content moderation.” She had previously called reports about Hunter Biden’s laptop being dropped off at a repair shop a “fairy tale” and posted a tweet echoing the “confidence” of the so-called intelligence community that the Hunter Biden laptop story was part of a Kremlin-led effort to “push influence narratives, including misleading or unsubstantiated claims about President Biden.” Both the existence of the Biden laptop and the fact that it was dropped off at a Delaware repair shop were later acknowledged by the New York Times, though not in time to prevent Twitter from locking the account of the nation’s oldest newspaper for publishing the same.

The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee had intended to hold a hearing earlier this month on “disinformation, misinformation, and malinformation” last week, but Democratic committee leaders cancelled it over apparent fears that Jankowicz would be called to testify. Videos of Jankowicz singing adapted showtunes about “disinformation” did not, as it turned out, inspire confidence in her temperament.

In a fact sheet released earlier this month, DHS argued that the department’s aims in erecting the board were in keeping with “nearly 10 years” of governmental efforts to “address disinformation that threatens our homeland security.” The department cited the work done by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to “mitigate the risk of disinformation to U.S. critical infrastructure” as analogous to the efforts of the DHS working group.

For context, here is CISA’s set of definitions for what constitutes “mis-, dis-, and malinformation”:

  • Misinformation is false, but not created or shared with the intention of causing harm.
  • Disinformation is deliberately created to mislead, harm, or manipulate a person, social group, organization, or country.
  • Malinformation is based on fact, but used out of context to mislead, harm, or manipulate.

Now, I am a Catholic. I share Pope Leo XIII’s view that the liberty “for all to do all things” is not “of itself desirable, inasmuch as it is contrary to reason that error and truth should have equal rights.” At a certain level of abstraction, the mission of the Disinformation Governance Board was similar to that of an ecclesial “censor.” Its concern with “malinformation”—that is, true information that could be distorted or “used” to cause “harm”—bears a certain similarity to the Catholic concept of “scandal.” The idea that mis- and disinformation should be censored and its exponents censured is a secular adaptation of the Catholic adage that “error has no rights.”

But Pope Leo XIII was not appointed to run the Disinformation Governance Board. Nina Jankowicz was. And its putative concern with “mis-, dis-, and malinformation” was aimed not at the promotion of truth and the marginalization of error, but a federal crackdown on thoughts and opinions that undermine the electoral interests of the Democratic Party.

about the author

John Hirschauer is assistant editor of The American Conservative. He was previously a William F. Buckley Jr. Fellow at National Review and a staff writer at RealClear.

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