Republican Senators, led by Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, are introducing legislation that would effectively kill the Department of Homeland Security's Disinformation Governance Board by prohibiting federal dollars funding it.
"The Biden administration wants a government agency dedicated to cracking down on what its subjects can say, an idea popular with Orwellian governments everywhere," Cotton said in a Washington Times story Tuesday. "This board is unconstitutional and un-American — my bill puts a stop to it."
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas informed Congress and the nation of the board's existence during testimony last week in front of the House Committee on Appropriations hearing on the 2023 budget.
According to the agency, the board is an "internal working group that was established with the explicit goal of ensuring these protections are appropriately incorporated across DHS's disinformation-related work and that rigorous safeguards are in place. The working group also seeks to coordinate the department's engagements on this subject with other federal agencies and a diverse range of external stakeholders. The working group does not have any operational authority or capability."
Mayorkas doubled down on that assessment during a televised interview on CNN Sunday, saying the agency could have done a better job letting the public and lawmakers know its mission and focus, but that it does not involve monitoring U.S. citizens speech or taking any actions against them.
"The fact is that disinformation that creates a threat to the security of the homeland is (DHS's) responsibility to address, and this department has been addressing it for years," Mayorkas said during the interview on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday. "(The board) works to ensure the way in which we address threats, the connectivity between threats and acts of violence are addressed without infringing on free speech, protecting civil rights and civil liberties."
He said the "small, internal, working group," board has no "operational authority, or capability," to monitor citizens or take actions.
Republicans have also criticized his choice of Nina Jankowicz to lead the panel due to her history of partisan posts on social media that may have, themselves, spread "disinformation," such as calling the New York Post's initial October 2020 story on Hunter Biden's laptop "Russian disinformation, and false."
She has recently also criticized billionaire Elon Musk's purchase of social media giant Twitter, the New York Times reported.
"I shudder to think about, if free speech absolutists were taking over more platforms, what that would be like for the marginalized communities around the world, which are already shouldering so much of this abuse, disproportionate amounts of this abuse," the Times reported Jankowicz said in an interview last week while promoting her new book.
Republicans and conservatives reacted strongly to the board's existence, comparing it to the "Ministry of Truth" in George Orwell's dystopian novel "1984" which details how an authoritarian state controls all aspects of people's lives, including what "facts" they are allowed to believe.
Cotton said that more than 20 other GOP Senators have signed onto his proposed legislation.
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