Senate Republicans are pledging to defund President Biden’s disinformation governance board at the Department of Homeland Security, further casting doubt on its future.
Sen. Steve Daines of Montana and 17 other Republican lawmakers say they will oppose any appropriations or government funding bill that includes money for the board. The argument was made in a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee, which was obtained exclusively by The Washington Times.
“The federal government should never be in the business of regulating speech or being the arbiter of truth, and this latest attempt to engage in that slippery slope should be defunded.” the lawmakers wrote.
DHS announced earlier this week it was pausing the launch of the disinformation board after a widespread backlash from conservative groups and civil libertarians. In particular, many lawmakers feared the board would become a censorship arm of the federal government with broad powers to regulate free speech on social media and other mediums.
Republican lawmakers especially questioned the need for DHS to create such a panel, noting that law enforcement agencies already had the authority to combat global disinformation.
Complicating matters was that the board’s chosen director, Nina Jankowicz, had a controversial history of inflammatory statements about free speech and a penchant for sharing misinformation.
Shortly after DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced that the board would be paused, Ms. Jankowicz resigned. Ms. Jankowicz said the decision was due to broad “mischaracterizations” of her views and the type of work to be done by the board.
“It is deeply disappointing that mischaracterizations of the board became a distraction from the department’s vital work, and indeed, along with recent events globally and nationally, embodies why it is necessary,” she said.
Despite the departure, DHS has pledged to revive the board in some fashion, saying its purpose was needed now more than ever.
“The board has been grossly and intentionally mischaracterized: it was never about censorship or policing speech in any manner,” the department said in a statement. “It was designed to ensure we fulfill our mission to protect the homeland, while protecting core constitutional rights.”
Republicans say they will fight to block any new iteration of the board using an arsenal of legislative procedures to ensure tax dollars are not used to fund its work.
“A fine line exists between tackling disinformation and government censorship,” Mr. Daines and his colleagues wrote. “Exactly where the Disinformation Governance Board falls on this line remains unclear and the potential for abuse is so egregious that we urge any and all funding for the board be prohibited during the Homeland Security appropriations process.”
• Haris Alic can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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