Opinion The Disinformation Governance Board’s collapse showcases the problem


HR King
May 29, 2001
The Disinformation Governance Board has been put on pause — leaving skeptics of the new body within the Department of Homeland Security sighing with relief. The board was from the start too mired in controversy to perform its intended function. But its collapse is no cause for celebration.
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The rollout of the DGB was rife with mistakes. Its name was eerie enough (and its infelicitous initials close enough to “KGB”) to conjure the specter of an Orwellian “Ministry of Truth,” and details on the board’s function were scarce enough to lead even those who might have otherwise supported it in concept to wonder about its effect on free expression. The American Civil Liberties Union, for instance, pointed out that any real enforcement authority for the DGB to direct the removal of information on the Internet would be unconstitutional. The ACLU was right: The DGB couldn’t and didn’t have any real enforcement authority. Instead, it was meant to be an internal coordinating body, given a mission to establish best practices for DHS in the work the agency is already doing to fight malign influence campaigns online.
Whether the creation of the DGB was the most effective way to draw up these best practices — which could range from offering tips on correcting false narratives through public messaging to advising agencies on how to monitor social media for disinformation without impinging on civil liberties — was never clear. Yet this episode has shown how vulnerable the government is to the same types of campaign the DGB was supposed to help it fight. Some of the questions about the board’s ambit were legitimate; worries about the perceived liberal bias of the woman picked to lead it, researcher Nina Jankowicz, while overblown, still merited consideration. But amid the legitimate criticisms arose a focused, aggressive right-wing effort to mislead citizens about the board’s role, and to harass Ms. Jankowicz until she tendered her resignation.


Those most at fault in this imbroglio, of course, are the actors who flooded the Web with lies and misogyny. But DHS’s own errors were a showcase in some of the worst practices for blunting disinformation: failing to anticipate how opportunists might exploit its odd name or vague mission to sow distrust, for instance, and then failing to mount a robust response as smears spread far and wide. These failures are the reason the DGB had to be, at least temporarily, dismantled. They’re also a reason, however, that some version of the job it was designed to do remains necessary. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, the Biden administration has learned from this going forward.

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Reactions: binsfeldcyhawk2
Mar 11, 2020
"Those most at fault in this imbroglio, of course, are the actors who flooded the Web with lies and misogyny."

No dipshit, the fault lies with the dumbshit who wanted to create a Dolores Umbridge and didn't think he would end up with egg on his face.