Wednesday, June 29, 2022

DHS halts propaganda board after weeks of GOP criticism

WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) — The Department of Homeland Security halted its new disruptive governance board on Wednesday and its board of directors will resign, after weeks of criticism from Republicans and questions about whether the board would throttle free speech rights.

While the board was not formally closed, it will be reviewed by members of a DHS advisory council, which is expected to make recommendations in 75 days. According to her letter obtained by the Associated Press, Nina Yankovic, who was elected to lead the board, wrote in her resignation letter that the board’s future was “uncertain.”

Federal and state agencies consider disinformation a threat to national security. But the new board was hampered from the start by questions about its purpose and uneven rollout that further confused its mission. The phrase “Ministry of Truth” – a reference to George Orwell’s “1984” – has repeatedly trended online in discussions about the board.

Some of the attacks on Jankowicz have used sexist and anti-Semitic slurs. A Fox News personality recently questioned whether Jankowicz should have agreed to lead the board if she were pregnant.

The Washington Post previously reported that the board would be put on hold.

DHS officials describe the board as an internal working group that aims to study definitions of propaganda across the department. He did not explain why he hired Jankowicz, who is not his lawyer, given his public profile.

Supporters of Jankowicz have accused the department of not doing enough to protect her from trolls and online attacks.

“It is very disappointing that the Board’s mishandling has become a distraction from the department’s important work, and indeed, with recent events globally and nationally, this explains why this is necessary,” Jankowicz said in his statement. It was written in the resignation letter.

Russia has tried to influence the last two presidential elections by promoting false stories and using social media to incite divisions in American society over issues such as race and the coronavirus pandemic. It has continued to spread false and misleading narratives about its invasion of Ukraine. US intelligence officials have accused China and Iran of spreading propaganda to the Americans.

Some speculated that the board was developed by DHS in response to billionaire Elon Musk’s plan to buy Twitter, driven by a desire to loosen the platform’s rules around tweets. Others made false claims that Jankowicz planned to edit daily Twitter users’ tweets.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Meyercas announced the creation of the board in late April, saying it would uncover Russian disinformation and false claims that encourage people to immigrate to the US-Mexico border. The board was immediately controversial, with Republican lawmakers questioning whether President Joe Biden’s administration was trying to antagonize police narratives.

Top Republicans on two major congressional oversight committees said they had a “complete lack of information about this new initiative.” And Meyerkas was repeatedly attacked on board in recent demonstrations on Capitol Hill. Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican, told Mayrakas that the board was a “terrible idea” that “tells the world we’re going to spread propaganda in our country.”

DHS also faced the prospect of a lawsuit. Twenty Republican attorneys general, led by Jason Miares of Virginia, threatened Meyerkas with legal action, “unless you just come back and immediately dissolve this Orwellian Disinformation Governance Board,” Miares said in a statement.

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Nation World News Desk
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