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Widespread Criticism Prompts 'Pause' of DHS Disinformation Board

The Department of Homeland Security said "work will be paused" on a new government board intended to help combat online disinformation, in the face of widespread criticism from conservatives who called its mission, the Wall Street Journal reports. The new body was intended to work on countering disinformation that it deemed a threat to homeland security. Examples include misleading information used by smugglers to persuade migrants to travel to the U.S.-Mexico border and disinformation spread by countries like Russia ahead of the midterm elections. The board was put on pause while a former DHS official and a former Deputy Attorney General lead a review of the department's disinformation work. The review should be completed within 75 days but efforts to address disinformation will continue, said a DHS spokeswoman.

Republicans in Congress have raised concerns that the board would seek to infringe on First Amendment protections, 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 voices on Twitter and other social media, including the American Civil Liberties Union, which said it was “eerily named.” Several senior DHS officials privately said the messaging and rollout of the board was flawed and poorly coordinated with other arms of DHS and the rest of the administration. The board's executive director, Nina Janowicz, described the board's future as uncertain.


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