Whistleblower revelations suggest the government sought to ‘operationalize’ social media sites to combat alleged disinformation
The Joe Biden administration previously had broad goals for its planned Board of Disinformation, including using social media platforms to remove posts the government deemed false, according to leaked documents obtained by Republican lawmakers.
In an open letter to Department of Homeland Security chief Alejandro Mayorkas published Wednesday, Republican Senators Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and Josh Hawley (Missouri) pressed for details about the DHS Disinformation Governance Board, citing the files. of the complainants.
The Department “planned to coordinate efforts to leverage ties with social media platforms to enable user content removal,” the senators said in a press release, adding that it sought to use Big Tech sites to “enforce your agenda”.
While the project was recently halted due to public backlash after it was first launched in April, with critics comparing it to a state-owned ‘Ministry of Truth’, lawmakers said the documents raised “serious concerns” about the effort.
“The DGB was established to serve as much more than just a ‘working group’ to ‘develop guidelines, standards, [and] guardrails to protect civil rights and civil liberties,” they wrote. “In fact, DHS documents show that the DGB was designed to be the central hub of the Department, the clearinghouse and gatekeeper of the Administration’s policy and response to anything it decided was ‘disinformation.’”
Grassley and Hawley argued that the Biden administration has not offered a clear definition of “disinformation,” and that the DHS board had shown serious bias even in its early stages, despite assurances that it would remain apolitical. In particular, they singled out the official designated to lead the DGB, Nina Jankowicz, alleging that she is “a known monger of foreign disinformation and liberal conspiracy theories.”
Jankowicz, moreover, may have been hired primarily because of “his relationship with Twitter executives”, the senators said, adding that the leaked materials show that the White House planned «operationalize» connections with social media companies to “implement its public policy objectives”.
Draft briefing notes prepared in late April indicate that a senior DHS official, Robert Silvers, planned to meet with Twitter executives to discuss the disinformation board, though it is unclear if the scheduled meeting ever took place.
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