Grassley, Hawley press DHS on Disinformation Board partnership with big tech to censor content

The senators obtained draft notes for an April briefing with Twitter executives

By Madeleine Hubbard

June 8, 2022

Top-ranking Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Josh Hawley sent a letter on Wednesday demanding answers from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) about the Disinformation Governance Board's plans to work with social media platforms to censor content, as shown in official records.

The Senate Judiciary Committee members are concerned "that DHS could be seeking an active role in coordinating the censorship of viewpoints that it determines, according to an unknown standard, to be [misinformation, disinformation or malformation] by enlisting the help of social media companies and big tech," Grassley and Hawley wrote in a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

The secretary announced the Disinformation Governance Board in April to heavy criticism. The Biden administration put the project on hold the following month and board head Nina Jankowicz resigned.

While it is unclear whether Jankowicz or any other DHS official met with social media companies, Hawley and Grassley obtained draft notes for an April 28, 2022 briefing with Twitter executives. Whistleblowers told the senators that Jankowicz may have been hired due to her close ties to Twitter executives.

The senators heavily criticized Jankowicz in their letter and pointed out her since-debunked claims about the Hunter Biden laptop and former President Donald Trump.

"Given the significant coordinating role the Department envisioned for the DGB, the consequences of installing Nina Jankowicz, a known trafficker of foreign disinformation and liberal conspiracy theories, as the DGB’s first Executive Director, would have been a disaster," wrote Hawley and Grassley, the latter of whom is ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"So this begs the question, if the (former) Executive Director of the DGB is incapable of determining what is and is not disinformation, how could the DGB ever have expected to function properly under her leadership?" they stated.

"The First Amendment of the Constitution was designed precisely so that the government could not censor opposing viewpoints – even if those viewpoints were false. DHS should not in any way seek to enlist the private sector to curb or silence opposing viewpoints," the senators said before concluding the letter by asking Mayorkas to provide more information about the Disinformation Governance Board.