Nina Jankowicz, who stepped down from heading the Department of Homeland Security’s Disinformation Governance Board, says the operation could have helped prevent mass shootings.
The board, which is now on pause, was quickly pummeled for everything from its overly broad and vague mission to its ominous name. “Ministry of Truth” trended on Twitter as critics railed against its likeness to George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984.”
But Jankowicz, who took her share of criticism before stepping down, told NPR that the board’s mission included responding to violent threats. Both recent mass shooters in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, posted information about their attacks, but far too late to act upon.
She correctly claims that violent extremism is “begotten” at least in part by what some individuals see online. This was established before 9/11 and then certainly afterwards.
And at least in the case of the Buffalo gunman, there are strong reasons to believe that he was influenced by online materials. Wanting to stop mass shootings is a noble cause, but through controlling (dis)information?
Even as the Disinformation board was criticized for its vague purpose, Jankowicz herself struggles to define its mission.
She repeatedly asserts that it was not a “whack-a-troll” process of fact-checking online claims. Nor did it have operational authority or capability. Disinformation which radicalizes, Jankowicz claims, is what the board would address.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told CNN that the board would “gather together best practices” concerning foreign adversaries. In other words, cartels, terrorist groups and Russia. No serious person will complain about that mission.
But was that the mission? And how would going after these prevent the tragedies of Buffalo and Uvalde?
Mayorkas also claimed the Disinformation Governance Board would not and could not monitor Americans. Just a hunch, but neither mass shooter is likely to have been influenced by the Kremlin or Mexican cartels.
Reasonable people brought serious concerns to light about the hopelessly vague quest assigned to Jankowicz and her board. All the retrofitting in the world by her and the Biden White House does not change the fact that a virtual blank check to target “misinformation” was recklessly given.