The Biden administration is facing significant partisan backlash over its creation of a Disinformation Governance Board intended to protect the country from threats that are “exacerbated by disinformation.”
A fact sheet published this week by the Department of Homeland Security acknowledges there has been confusion about the board and its purpose, stating that it is a “working group [that] does not have any operational authority or capability, but that it will aid DHS in carrying out its mission of safeguarding the United States against threats to its security.
Many Republicans, including Senator James Lankford (R-OK), have been quick to criticize the board, suggesting it is something akin to the Ministry of Information in George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984”: “Biden’s Big Brother government continues to slowly erode our civil liberties," Sen. Lankford said in a statement Tuesday.
In an interview Wednesday, Lankford said it's one thing for the government to police foreign disinformation, "that’s entirely reasonable, but when you start talking about American to American and try to engage with something that is domestic disinformation, it’s a very different issue."
Lankford complained that DHS had not provided a mission statement for the board, a statement of its enforcement priorities, or even its definition of disinformation.
The DHS publication defines disinformation as “false information that is deliberately spread with the intent to deceive or mislead,” noting that it can take many forms, but stating that DHS “is focused on disinformation that threatens the security of the American people, including disinformation spread by foreign states such as Russia, China, and Iran, or other adversaries such as transnational criminal organizations and human smuggling organizations.”
Republicans were planning to question DHS Secretary Mayorkas about the disinformation board Wednesday afternoon at a committee hearing.
“We do not need a federal entity to try to control speech in the United States, or to try to manage what’s information and what’s disinformation,” Lankford said in the interview. “We have a free press that engages in that — as long as we can maintain a free press, we have an exchange of ideas across the nation, that’s been our check rather than a federal entity being our check for what’s information and disinformation.”
Lankford has signed on to legislation introduced this week in the Senate to prevent the board from being funded. Similar legislation has also been introduced in the House. Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK2) is a co-sponsor.