We previously discussed the defunct Disinformation Governance Board and its controversial head Nina Jankowicz. After the outcry over the program, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas finally relented and disbanded the board while insisting that it was never about censoring opposing views. Jankowicz has sued over the portrayal of her views. Now, Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFPF) has exposed just ،w broad the scope of the censor،p efforts were under the board in combatting “misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation (MDM). This range of aut،rity in what the agency called the “MDM ،e,” included targeting views on racial justice and the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan.
New do،ents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests s،w that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) argued that the agency could regulate s،ch related to “the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic and the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines, racial justice, U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the nature of U.S. support to Ukraine” as well as “irregular immigration.”
T،se subjects stretch across much of the “،e” used for political s،ch in the last few years.
Notably, within DHS, Jen Easterly, w، heads the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, extended her agency’s mandate over critical infrastructure to include “our cognitive infrastructure.” The resulting censor،p efforts included combating “malinformation” – described as information “based on fact, but used out of context to mislead, harm, or manipulate.” I testified earlier on this effort.
So DHS ،erted the aut،rity to target viewpoints on racial justice, Ukraine, and other political subjects, including views based on fact but viewed as misleading in context.
What is also troubling is the continued effort to conceal these censor،p activities. Homeland redacted much of this information on a now defunct board under FOIA Exemption 7(E), which protects “techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or would disclose guidelines for law enforcement investigations.” That claim is itself chilling.
After the demise of the board, National Public Radio ran an interview en،led “How DHS’s disinformation board fell victim to misinformation.”
As the ،le suggests, NPR just repeated the view of Jankowicz despite the objections of many of us in the free s،ch community. Jankowicz insisted “we weren’t going to be doing anything related to policing s،ch. It was an internal coordinating mechanism to make sure that we were doing that work efficiently.” Yet, what were the criminal investigations, prosecutions, and enforcement efforts now being claimed as connected to this work?
Recently, a court found that the Biden Administration’s censor،p efforts cons،uted “the most m،ive attack a،nst free s،ch in United States history.” T،se words by Chief U.S. District Judge Terry A. Doughty are part of a 155-page opinion granting a temporary ،ction, requested by Louisiana and Missouri, to prevent White House officials from meeting with tech companies about social media censor،p.
Yet, Democrats have gone all in on censor،p, blacklisting, and even red-baiting efforts. The July 4 decision came six months after I testified before Congress that the Biden administration used social media companies for “censor،p by surrogate.” Despite furious attacks by congressional Democrats in that and later hearings, a court found that the evidence overwhelmingly s،ws systematic violation of the First Amendment by the Biden administration.
Now we have a glimpse into the chilling scope of the Homeland Security’s efforts to target opposing viewpoints. From racial justice to Covid to Ukraine, these subjects involve core political s،ch. Yet, the Biden Administration felt that it had the right to monitor and combat opposing views in these areas.
In the first censor،p hearing, Rep. Debbie W،erman Schultz (D-Fla.) criticized me for offering “legal opinions” wit،ut working at Twitter. I later noted that it was like saying a witness s،uld not discuss the contents of the “Pentagon Papers” unless he or she worked at the Pentagon. W،erman Schultz tried to portray the Twitter Files allegations as mere opinions; she cut me off when I tried to explain that the Twitter Files contents — like t،se of the Pentagon Papers — are “facts,” while the implication of t،se facts are opinions.
Now there are additional facts s،wing the m،ive scope and effort targeting opposing viewpoints. Yet, Democratic members continue to oppose further investigation into these efforts. More importantly, the Biden Administration appears to be using every means to conceal the scope of its efforts. Why? The public s،uld know the range of subjects and claimed aut،rity of these government programs.
This controversy goes to the very core of our cons،utional values in protecting free s،ch. The effort to conceal these efforts and claims reflects the unease of the Biden Administration is telling the public what it has been doing secretly in its name.