Just weeks after heralding its creation, the Department of Homeland Security announced a “pause” on the Disinformation Governance Board. The stated goal of the new committee was to protect Americans’ freedom of speech, civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy. However, both widespread alarm at the board itself and criticism of the committee’s head prompted DHS to reassess just how it might “build the trust needed” to ensure its effectiveness going forward.
Unsurprisingly, the liberal media was quick to come to the defense of Nina Jankowicz, the named head of the newly created board. In its article titled, “How the Biden administration let right-wing attacks derail its disinformation efforts,” Washington Post Taylor Lorenz referred to Jankowicz as “the victim of coordinated online attacks.” The piece hailed Jankowicz as well-respected in the field of disinformation and a qualified pick for the role. Lorenz describes her as the “primary target” of unjustified criticism, bemoaning the board’s dissolution as further evidence of right-wing disinformation.
When asked about the Disinformation Board, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre reiterated DHS’s statement from earlier in the week that the board had been “intentionally mischaracterized.” She sought also to clarify the purpose of the board, namely in informing Homeland Security officials on the use of on-line disinformation by nefarious actors to achieve their goals.
The former Wilson Center disinformation fellow came under scrutiny as various tweets revealed a pattern of partisan behavior and, well… misinformation. In March of 2020, Jankowicz tweeted her hope “the rest of the adtech industry stops placing ads for masks and worse (straight up disinfo!) on articles and info about coronavirus.” This came as masks were dismissed and then required again not long after. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Jankowicz went so far as to suggest that a Trump presidency would “embolden ISIS.” She also disseminated the “unbelieveable” conspiracy theory of Trump’s “secret email servers used to communicate with influential Russian bank.”
If these partisan bits of “misinformation” weren’t enough to disqualify her from the job, then her proposition regarding Twitter should be. A video of a recent Zoom chat shows Jankowicz suggesting Twitter users ought to be “verified” and able to edit others’ tweets that contain factual errors, much like Wikipedia. Elon Musk, pending owner of Twitter, called the video “disconcerting.”
The willingness of the “far right” to dig deep into the public past of Biden’s hand-picked disinformation czar shouldn’t be a cause for concern. What rightly raised alarm, however, is the information Jankowicz previously tweeted on multiple occasions that proved untrue and her inability to remain politically unaligned. So, who here fact checks the fact checker, and to what or whose reality is “disinformation” subject?