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Disinformation board on pause

by The Associated Press | May 19, 2022 at 4:11 a.m.

WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday paused a new board’s work on disinformation and accepted the resignation of its leader, capping weeks of concerns about impinging on free speech rights and conspiracy theories about the board itself.

Former Disinformation Governance Board director Nina Jankowicz told The Associated Press hours after resigning Wednesday that the wave of attacks she’s fielded since the board’s launch will not stop her from speaking out about disinformation campaigns.

Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas acknowledged the board’s controversy had become a distraction to the department’s other work, which includes safeguarding U.S. elections, two officials familiar with his decision said.

While the board has not formally been shuttered, it will be reviewed by members of a Department of Homeland Security advisory council that’s expected to make recommendations in 75 days.

The new board was questioned from the start about its purpose, funding and work. Mayorkas struggled to answer concerns even as he appeared in front of lawmakers on Capitol Hill earlier this month.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre noted the board had never met and neither the department nor Jankowicz had any power to censor or remove content labeled as disinformation.

Department officials had tried to quell concerns about how the board would impact issues of free speech and online privacy by describing it as an internal working group intended to study definitions of disinformation across the department. But opponents remained unconvinced.

The top Republicans on the House intelligence and homeland security committees issued a joint statement Wednesday calling the board “a political tool to be wielded by the party in control.”


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