Disinformation Governance Board Formed to Censor ‘Conspiracy Theories’

The Department of Homeland security was attempting to monitor free speech.

QUICK FACTS:
  • The Department of Homeland Security’s Disinformation Governance Board was formed with the purpose of monitoring American free speech and censoring “Conspiracy theories,” according to documents provided by a whistleblower to Congress.
  • The documents given to lawmakers prompted an open letter addressed to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Tuesday, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Josh Hawley (R-Ark.).
  • The Republicans demanded that the department “provide additional clarity regarding its policies and procedures for identifying (mis-, dis- or mal-information), as well as its efforts to ‘operationalize’ public-private partnerships and the steps it is taking to ensure it does not infringe on the constitutional rights of American citizens.”
  • The senators claimed that the whistleblower offered evidence that the now paused board was not, as it was presented, intended as a “working group” to “develop guidelines, standards, [and] guardrails” against disinformation.
  • “In fact, DHS documents show the DGB was designed to be the Department’s central hub, clearinghouse and gatekeeper for Administration policy and response to whatever it happened to decide was ‘disinformation,’” the letter stated.
DETAILS OF FROM INTERNAL DHS MEMOS:
  • The DHS internal memo asserts that the DGB was created to coordinate with “Big Tech” to enforce the censorship of narratives conflicting with the government’s official statements:

“Collectively, whistleblower allegations and the documents we’ve reviewed raise concerns that DHS could be seeking an active role in coordinating the censorship of viewpoints that it determines, according to an unknown standard, to be ‘MDM’ by enlisting the help of social media companies and big tech.

“While DHS components apparently have established methods for defining and analyzing disinformation, and would continue to carry out all of their normal operational functions under a DGB, it appears that the DGB was equipped to review evidence presented by representatives of the various components and guide DHS counter disinformation efforts.

“A September 13, 2021 memo prepared in part by Robert Silvers, Under Secretary for Strategy, Policy, and Plans and, according to whistleblower allegations, one of two intended co-chairs of the DGB, outlined specific policy recommendations that should guide DHS efforts to counter disinformation. 

“The memo states that DHS’s ‘role in responding to disinformation should be limited to areas where there are clear, objective facts.’ It is unclear how DHS defines ‘clear, objective facts,’ and it is unclear what safeguards, if any, DHS has put in place to ensure that individuals charged with determining which issue areas have ‘clear’ and ‘objective facts’ are not influenced by their own ideological and political beliefs. 

“While the memo boldly asserts that the Department’s “counter- disinformation mission, including the choices as to what issue areas to focus on, must not be politicized and must be protected from perceptions of politicization,” some of the examples of disinformation given in the memo relate not only to foreign disinformation but issues that have been at the heart of domestic political discourse for the past several years.

“For instance, the memo refers to ‘[c]onspiracy theories about the validity and security of elections’ and ‘[d]isinformation related to the origins and effects of COVID-19 vaccines or the efficacy of masks.’”

BACKGROUND:
  • The Biden admin’s DHS paused the Disinformation Governance Board following a monumental backlash from Republicans, libertarians, and even some liberals.
  • White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre attempted to distance the West Wing from the initiative, insisting “we did not have involvement in this at all” when asked if top officials had ordered the halt.
  • A DHS spokesperson emphasized the Board was “grossly and intentionally mischaracterized,” saying, “It was never about censorship or policing speech in any manner. It was designed to ensure we fulfill our mission to protect the homeland, while protecting core Constitutional rights.”