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The Department of Homeland Security has formed a new Disinformation Governance Board ahead of the 2022 midterms in order to counter online “misinformation” related to COVID-19, elections and migrant smuggling.
President Biden’s pick to head the board, Nina Jankowicz, has already ruffled some feathers after it was discovered that the Wilson Center global fellow and author had previously pushed information later found to be false or misleading.
In March 2020, Jankowicz quote-tweeted a post from Rob Leathern, who formerly worked on integrity products at Facebook. At the time Leathern announced that the company was giving the World Health Organization, and other notable groups, as many free ads as needed for COVID-19 response.
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“This is good. Now hope the rest of the adtech industry stops placing ads for mask and worse (straight up disinfo!) on articles and info about coronavirus,” Jankowicz wrote on Twitter.
The new disinformation board executive director was likely touting the opinion of Dr. Anthony Fauci and other U.S. health leaders, who at the time advised Americans not to wear masks. Later, Fauci admitted he was concerned there wouldn’t be enough protective equipment (PPE) for frontline health care workers. Additionally, health experts initially claimed they did not fully know how contagious coronavirus was or how exactly it spread.
The disinformation fellow has also repeatedly called into question the legitimacy of the Hunter Biden laptop story.
“Back on the ‘laptop from hell,’ apparently—Biden notes 50 former natsec officials and 5 former CIA heads that believe the laptop is a Russian influence op. Trump says ‘Russia, Russia, Russia,’” Jankowicz tweeted in October 2020.
After the tweet resurfaced and drew criticism from conservatives, Jankowicz cast doubt on the controversy by claiming it was “simply a direct quote” from the presidential candidates.
But, a week before her tweet about the debate, Jankowicz said the laptop should be viewed as a “Trump campaign product” during a conversation with the Associated Press.
Jankowicz also tweeted about the laptop on two other occasions. In one instance, she tweeted out a link to an article from TIME that she claimed indicated “more doubt on the provenance” of the New York Post story that initially broke the news on Biden’s son.
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Another tweet saw the disinfo expert claim that the Hunter Biden emails need not be altered to be “part of an influential campaign” and argued voters “deserve context” rather than a “fairy tale” about the Delaware laptop repair store.
Additionally, Jankowicz also hyped up Chris Steele, the former British Spy whose fake dossier was used in part as the impetus for the investigation into whether Trump colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 presidential election. The dossier has since been discredited as dubiously sourced and full of innuendo, rumor, or information that was already publicly available.
“Listened to this last night – Chris Steele (yes THAT Chris Steele) provides some great historical context about the evolution of disinfo. Worth a listen,” Jankowicz wrote in August 2020.
Outside of these comments Jankowicz has also posted a number of tweets that critics panned as controversial and bizarre. Users also pointed to tweets where the executive director made past predictions that turned out to be incorrect.
During Hillary Clinton’s campaign against Trump, Jankowicz posted this: “Maybe @HillaryClinton’s most important point so far: ‘A @realDonaldTrumppresidency would embolden ISIS.’ #ImWithHer.”
The Islamic State caliphate collapsed under the Trump administration, which also carried out the successful operation to kill ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
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During a recent conversation with NPR, Jankowicz discussed Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter where she voiced concern that “free speech absolutists” would have negative consequences for marginalized communities on social media platforms. She reiterated her point in an April 25 tweet.
“Last week I told @NPRMICHEL: I shudder to think about if free speech absolutists were taking over more platforms, what that would look like for the marginalized communities…which are already shouldering…disproportionate amounts of this abuse,” she wrote.
Conservative critics also knocked the “disinformation czar” for claiming that “free spirited” Americans would not comply with social distancing recommendations “unless they’re forced upon” them.
“So force away! Lock us down. People are not taking this seriously,” she wrote in part.
Another tweet from January saw Jankowicz come under fire for her claim that “there are many non-binary people who give birth,” and for using the term “pregnant people” rather than women.
Surprisingly, at one point, the disinformation leader appeared to be against the idea of the kind of government board she now spearheads. In a May 2020 interview, Jankowicz bashed the idea of the Trump administration having the ability to determine what is real news and “fake news,” and mentioned Poland’s “Ministry of Digitalization” as an example of “fodder” for “anti-democratic online governance.”
“I would never want to see our executive branch have that sort of power,” she noted.
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Asked by Fox News’ Jacqui Heinrich about prior statements made by Jankowicz and how the administration can “assuage concerns” over her appointment to lead the effort fairly, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki responded on Thursday, “It sounds like the objective of the board is to prevent disinformation and misinformation from traveling around the country in a range of communities. I’m not sure who opposes that effort.”