Posted on May 18, 2022

DHS Disinformation Board ‘Suspended’ Following Backlash

Dustin Volz, Wall Street Journal, May 18, 2022

The Department of Homeland Security has suspended the establishment of a new government board intended to support efforts to combat online disinformation, in the face of widespread criticism from conservatives who accused its mission of being Orwellian.

The new body, the existence of which emerged publicly in April, had been intended to work on countering disinformation that it deemed a threat to homeland security. {snip}

A DHS spokeswoman confirmed in a statement that the board had been put on pause as former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, who served during the George W. Bush administration, and former Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick, a Clinton administration official, lead a review of the department’s disinformation work and how to increase public trust in those endeavors. {snip}

The spokeswoman said the board had been “grossly and intentionally mischaracterized,” and that “false attacks have become a significant distraction from the department’s vitally important work to combat disinformation that threatens the safety and security of the American people.”

The board didn’t convene a single time before being suspended, and the decision to halt its work was made by department leadership, according to a senior DHS official. {snip}

Some Republicans in Congress raised concerns that the board would seek to infringe on First Amendment protections on free speech, with some drawing comparisons to George Orwell’s state-sponsored, propaganda-pushing Ministry of Truth in his dystopian novel “1984.”

The board also drew negative commentary from a wide spectrum of voices on Twitter and other social media, including the American Civil Liberties Union, which said it was “eerily named.” Elon Musk, the billionaire currently working to buy Twitter, who has said he wants to lift its restrictions on controversial posts, called the board “messed up.”


Att the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency within DHS, some officials worried the board and the backlash it attracted would undermine its continuing efforts to combat election-related disinformation, efforts that have historically enjoyed some bipartisan support, The Wall Street Journal previously reported.