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DHS pauses a board created to combat disinformation amid a campaign to discredit it

A group within the Department of Homeland Security focused on combating disinformation has been paused.
Alastair Pike
/
AFP via Getty Images
A group within the Department of Homeland Security focused on combating disinformation has been paused.

A group within the Department of Homeland Security that was set up to focus on combating disinformation has been put on pause, DHS said Wednesday, and its director Nina Jankowicz is stepping down.

The decision, first reported by the Washington Post, comes in the midst of a coordinated, right-wing smear campaign against Jankowicz. The group, called the Disinformation Governance Board, launched three weeks ago and has not met.

The working group was created with the purpose of helping to develop strategies to combat disinformation while, DHS said, remaining committed to protecting Americans' freedom of speech and other rights. Republicans were quick to claim without evidence the board would result in censorship, criticizing what they considered an unclear mission as well as Jankowicz as its leader.

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas acknowledged earlier month that the goal of the board could have been made more clear.

A DHS spokesperson on Wednesday said in a statement that the board has been "grossly and intentionally mischaracterized: it was never about censorship or policing speech in any manner. ... 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."

DHS says it is conducting a review and assessment on how to continue their work on combating disinformation which will last 75 days. During this time, they said the board will not operate.

The Washington Post reported that DHS initially decided they would shut down the board on Monday, but by Tuesday they decided the board's work would be paused.

"It is deeply disappointing that mischaracterizations of the Board became a distraction from the Department's vital work, and indeed, along with recent events globally and nationally, embodies why it is necessary," Jankowicz said in a statement announcing her resignation. "I maintain my commitment to building awareness of disinformation's threats and trust the Department will do the same."

The forthcoming review of the board will be conducted by the Homeland Security Advisory Council and led by former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff and former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre pushed back against the notion that the board was shutting down.

"It's going to pause," she said Wednesday at the White House press briefing. "There's been a mischaracterization from outside forces and so what we're going to do is pause it and do an assessment. But the work doesn't stop."

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