The DHS secretary Alejandro Mayorkas was the first made the public aware the new disinformation board during a house subcommittee hearing in April. The White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki stated that the Disinformation Board purpose is to establish best practices to combat foreign disinformation campaigns against the American people and its “infrastructure”. Mayorkas claims that the board will not have any operational authority or capabilities during a CNN interview, but that the board would “gather” best practices and communicate these practices with “operators”. That is all they really have to say about how the board would actually combat disinformation, and it is extremely vague. Mayorkas was asked if American citizens be monitored, and he states that the DHS does not monitor American citizens. There is some additional rhetoric about the boards main goals being to preserve free speech and civil liberties, but without any information as to how it will do so. Many questions arise from their vague descriptions of the board, such as who are these “operators”? What kind of operational capacities and authority do they possess? If the Disinformation Board has so no capabilities, why is it needed? Surely the DHS can use existing resources and organizations to simply hire experts to advise “operators” on “best practices”.
The DHS appointed Nina Jankowicz to head the Disinformation Board, claiming that she is a disinformation expert and, according to Mayorkas during the CNN interview, that she is a neutral actor. She is clearly not neutral, aligning herself squarely with resistance liberals and is plainly against Trump and conservatives. This is fine, not every person needs to be an ideologically “neutral” actor. What is an issue is lacking objectiveness and being someone that resorts to party lines and a standard reflex. Jankowicz has herself pushed false claims, such as that Trump had ties to the Kremlin linked Alfa Bank. She also was a part of the democrat’s attempts to shut down the Hunter Biden laptop story and claimed it was a “Trump campaign product”. Everyone has fallen for false claims, they are rampant online, and it is easy to fall for the ones that comfortably fit into your world view. However, if you are to be the head of an organization that is in charge of determining what is disinformation, you should at the very least admit this kind of mistake and be more careful about what you propagate. The Hunter-Biden story was a legitimate one, I think that if one of Trumps children had documents leaked about their private business dealings with foreign governments or businesses that anyone on the left would defend its acquisition and publication, falling for the urge to protect your party is disingenuous behavior. Jankowicz also has floated some troubling suggestions for combating disinformation. During a tick tock group video Jankowicz stated that verified twitter users should be allowed to edit other users tweets in order to provide context, but also stated that there are a lot of people who should not be verified because they are untrustworthy. In other words, allow verified users to edit other peoples tweets, but also restrict verification to people that are deemed “trustworthy” so that only establishment approved individuals would have this editing power. This is simply government censorship with a few steps added so it is done through a company, the amount of abuse this opens up is unacceptable. A verified user could easily choose to re-write the original comment in order to put words into the authors mouth, or provide false “contextual information” that appears legitimate in order to sow doubt amongst the tweets audience. Nothing is stopping users currently from posting this kind of context as a reply, this step would simply give establishment voices more power.
Many centrist and neoliberal democrats have adopted a philosophy of shutting out dissenting voices to the establishment democrats rhetoric. The center left in America has gained broad control over the talking points and rhetoric of the media, and so conservatives are railing against this cultural power in-balance using free-speech rhetoric. However the right is no champion of free speech in America, they are just upset that they do not have power over censorship at the moment. We can look back to early 2000’s where the media widely propagated the Bush administrations lies about the Iraq war, and actively silenced or slandered anti-war voices for being traitors or unpatriotic. Bill Maher had his show canceled for criticizing the US military is a rather famous example. Cancel culture was abound in the US, only instead of liberals cancelling people over racist remarks it was the war hawks of the republican party (but sometimes also the democratic party) who sought to cancel and silence those who were against the invasion of Iraq or Afghanistan. The same government that lied to the world about WMD’s in Iraq now is trying to convince Americans that it should be allowed to determine what is misinformation. When the US military was withdrawing from Afghanistan the US conducted a drone strike within the city of Kabul against what the military claimed was a terrorist threat. They bombed a non-profit workers car as he pulled into the driveway of his home, killing three adults and seven children, the youngest being a two year old. The US government stated that there were no civilian casualties immediately following the strike, and that it was a righteous strike and had good intelligence which was subjected to “same level of rigor that we’ve done for years”. It was only after the New York Times found that the drone strike had killed a non-profit worker and his children that the US government changed its tune. Can we trust that during such a moment the disinformation board would not silence and questions or claims that the drone strike was illegitimate and targeted children? The left can’t forget that even when democrats gain momentary political power, the government is still entirely controlled by neoliberal and neo-khan ideology. The ACLU has historically known this, and has repeatedly defended Ku Klux Klan members in court cases targeting the Klans speech, such as Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969), because they knew that any precedent set out against Klan members could be then used against Black Panthers or socialist groups to silence and prosecute them. It is just as easy for Twitter or any other tech company to censor the voices of the left whenever left-wing criticisms target those in power, and the left should do everything in its power to prevent the government, media, or tech companies from using their power to silence any voices, as it will always come back and get used against the left. Those in power seek to silence voices that critique them, and at its core left-wing ideology is about championing the discriminated and marginalized against the powerful and privileged.