The Department of Homeland Security's "paused" disinformation board sought to work with Big Tech social media platforms to police their content, two GOP senators revealed Wednesday.
A whistleblower provided Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa and Josh Hawley, R-Mo., with internal DHS records that illustrate how the board was designed to exert powerful influence over the government's efforts to crack down on disinformation in areas where there are "clear, objective facts."
The senators called on DHS to turn over additional materials related to the board's efforts to partner with social media platforms to enforce its agenda.
"The First Amendment of the Constitution was designed precisely so that the government could not censor opposing viewpoints – even if those viewpoints were false," the senators said in a letter sent to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
"DHS should not in any way seek to enlist the private sector to curb or silence opposing viewpoints. It is therefore imperative for DHS to provide additional clarity regarding its policies and procedures for identifying and addressing 'MDM' [mis-, dis- or mal-information], as well as its efforts to 'operationalize' public-private partnerships and the steps it is taking to ensure that it does not infringe on the constitutional rights of American citizens."
Nina Jankowicz, named to lead the Biden administration's newly created Disinformation Governance Board, resigned May 18 after it was announced the board would be "paused" following much criticism of her appointment.
Republicans took issue with Jankowicz, who had a history of partisan posts on social media that may have spread "disinformation," such as calling the New York Post's initial October 2020 story on Hunter Biden's laptop "Russian disinformation, and false."
Whistleblowers alleged that Jankowicz had connections to Twitter executives, and documents confirmed that she knew Twitter's head of policy and head of site integrity, The Washington Times reported.
The documents provided to Grassley and Hawley revealed that the disinformation board originally was conceived, in part, to monitor speech regarding "conspiracy theories about the validity and security of elections" and "disinformation related to the origins and effects of COVID-19 vaccines or the efficacy of masks."
Mayorkas in May testified under oath before Congress that the board "had not yet begun its work." However, the documents showed that the board's charter went into effect when the secretary signed it on Feb. 24, 2022.
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