Just weeks after its announcement, the Department of Homeland Security’s Disinformation Governance Board is reportedly being put on pause and its leader is resigning following a wave of online pushback.

Driving the news: The board has been plagued since the start, drawing the ire of conservatives who have compared it to the Ministry of Truth from George Orwell’s “1984.” Utah GOP Congressman Burgess Owens joined a growing movement last week to defund the board, calling it a “political tool for so-called experts to referee free speech.”

  • According to The Washington Post, Nina Jankowicz, the disinformation expert tasked with leading the board, drew harsh, coordinated attacks from right-wing organizers online who mischaracterized her role with the board and accused the board of censoring free speech.
  • The board was described by DHS as a “working group” to study disinformation, and has no “operational authority or capability,” but Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas admitted the announcement and rollout were poorly communicated.
  • After the suspension of the disinformation board, Jankowicz resigned from her position, CNN reports.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas speaks during a Senate Appropriations - Subcommittee on Homeland Security on Wednesday, May 4, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Department of Homeland Security paused the work of its new disinformation governance board Wednesday. The move responds to weeks of criticism from Republicans and questions about whether the board would impinge on Americans’ free speech rights. A statement says DHS’ advisory board on homeland security will review the board’s work. | Mariam Zuhaib, Associated Press
Related
Why Burgess Owens wants to defund Biden’s Disinformation Governance Board
What did we learn from 2021? Polarization, misinformation is literally killing people, Utah governor says

How right-wing internet organized against the board: Although her work was “well-regarded” by disinformation experts, Jankowicz was quickly targeted “by the very forces she dedicated her career to combating,” writes The Washington Post.

  • The Post said it’s a “prime example” of how far-right influencers target an individual with mischaracterizations to discredit them online, invoking the help of millions of social media followers.
  • After her reporting was published on Wednesday, Washington Post reporter Taylor Lorenz’s name became the top trending topic on Twitter, with conservative influencers like Jack Posobiec mocking her for a typo that appeared in an earlier version of the article. Posobiec rallied his followers in opposition to the board last month, echoing comparisons to the Ministry of Truth.
  • “The Board has been grossly and intentionally mischaracterized: it was never about censorship or policing speech in any manner,” DHS said in a statement, according to The Associated Press. “It was designed to ensure we fulfill our mission to protect the homeland, while protecting core Constitutional rights.”

What’s next? With the pause of the disinformation board, its future is “uncertain,” said Jankowicz in a resignation letter obtained by The Associated Press. A DHS advisory council will review the working group’s status and make recommendations in 75 days.