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Republican lawmakers are blasting a new Department of Homeland Security disinformation board as the latest Democratic effort to censor opposing views.
Ahead of the November midterm election, the Biden administration and Democratic lawmakers are looking to tackle disinformation — deliberately deceptive messaging — on issues including the pandemic, the 2020 election, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told a House panel Wednesday that the governance board would counter the threat of misinformation and disinformation for elections and homeland security. Misinformation covers any falsehood portrayed as true.
“We are addressing all aspects of election security, given, of course, the midterm elections that are upon us, and the fundamental integrity of our democratic processes that is at stake,” Mayorkas told the House Homeland Security Committee.
Republican lawmakers call the board an attack on conservative views and the First Amendment.
“It can only be assumed that the sole purpose of this new Disinformation Governance Board will be to marshal the power of the federal government to censor conservative and dissenting speech,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said in a statement. “This is dangerous and un-American. The board should be immediately dissolved.”
Twitter has banned Republicans like former president Donald Trump and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) for spreading disinformation.
Focus on ‘Bad Actors’
Mayorkas is scheduled to testify before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee next week. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), the panel’s ranking member, said he looked forward to pressing Mayorkas on the new board.
Portman noted he helped author a law to help allies combat disinformation abroad, but doesn’t believe the U.S. should turn such tools on Americans. “Our focus should be on bad actors like Russia and China, not our own citizens,” he said in a statement.
Republicans also took issue with the panel’s leadership. Wilson Center disinformation fellow Nina Jankowicz announced in a tweet Wednesday that she will serve as the board’s executive director. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) called her “a beacon of misinformation online” in a letter to Mayorkas.
DHS didn’t respond to a request for comment.
To contact the reporter on this story: Maria Curi in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org