Department of Homeland Security Announces New Disinformation Governance Council

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Department of Homeland Security is stepping up efforts to counter misinformation from Russia as well as misleading information smugglers are spreading to target migrants hoping to make it to the U.S.-Mexico border.

“The spread of misinformation can affect border security, the safety of Americans during disasters, and public confidence in our democratic institutions,” the department said in a statement Wednesday. He declined the Associated Press’ request for an interview.

The Homeland Security logo is seen during a joint press conference in Washington, February 25, 2015.

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

A newly formed disinformation governance council announced on Wednesday that it would immediately begin focusing on disinformation targeting migrants, an issue that has helped fuel surges at the US southern border in recent years. Smugglers often spread misinformation about border policies to stimulate business.

Last September, for example, confusion over President Joe Biden’s immigration policies, combined with widely shared messages within the Haitian community on Meta’s Facebook and WhatsApp platforms, drove some of the 14,000 migrants to the border town of Del Rio, Texas, where they set up camp. Some were eventually deported and flown out of the United States

“We are very concerned that Haitians using the irregular migration route are receiving misinformation that the border is open,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said at the time.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testifies before the House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill, Thursday, April 28, 2022, in Washington.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testifies before the House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill, Thursday, April 28, 2022, in Washington.

The new board will also monitor and prepare for Russian disinformation threats ahead of this year’s midterm elections and the Kremlin is continuing an aggressive disinformation campaign around the war in Ukraine. Russia has repeatedly waged disinformation campaigns targeting the American public to deepen divisions around the election period and spread conspiracy theories around US COVID-19 vaccines. More recently, Russian state media, social media accounts and officials have used the internet to label photographs, news reports and videos of bombed bodies and buildings in Ukraine as fake.

The board will be led by disinformation expert Nina Jankowicz, who has researched Russian disinformation tactics and online harassment.

During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden, a Democrat, repeatedly said he would push tech companies, including Facebook, to crack down harder on the misinformation and conspiracy theories that have overwhelmed social media and their users.

Dozens of Republican lawmakers and pundits took to social media on Wednesday to widely criticize the new board and call for it to be disbanded.

“Rather than policing our border, Homeland Security has decided to make surveilling Americans’ speech its top priority,” a tweet from Missouri U.S. Senator Josh Hawley read in part. “They are creating a disinformation committee.”

DHS said in its statement that the board will “protect privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties” in the performance of its duties.


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