Nina Jankowicz, the newly-appointed head of the Biden administration’s Disinformation Governance Board, told Congress in October 2020 that she saw no role for the federal government in policing disinformation online.
“I do not think government should be in that business,” she said during testimony before the House Intelligence Committee.
Jankowicz, who has since argued for a strong government role in pushing back against “disinformation,” was questioned by Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT), who said that his experience growing up in tyrannical countries in Latin America had made him “violently allergic” to governments that claimed to be regulating the flow of information.
“We start going down that path, and we are not just ‘breaking democracy,’ we are breaking classical, enlightened liberalism,” he said. He added that he believed that it was “pretty lame” that government appeared to be outsourcing the effort to deal with disinformation to Silicon Valley tech companies.
Himes also challenged Jankowicz: “I actually want to see the evidence that people are seeing this information, and are in a meaningful way, in a material way, dismantling our democracy through violence or through political organizations.”
He also noted that there were also examples of Democrats using “disinformation,” such as then-President Barack Obama “that if they wanted to keep their private insurance plan, they could do it. That turned out not to be true.” He asked whether social media companies should therefore pursue the former president as well for breaking his promise to the voters.
Jankowicz replied: “I totally understand your aversion to the idea that government would fight back against disinformation, in fact — the use of that term has been basically the foundation to some very draconian fake news laws in places like Russia, or even Singapore. I do not think government should be in that business, either.”
As evidence that disinformation was leading to violence, she cited two familiar Democratic Party talking points. One was the alleged kidnapping plot against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI). Jankowicz claimed that social media “played a huge role in allowing that group to organize.”
The trials of the alleged kidnappers ended in two acquittals and two hung juries last month, amid evidence of entrapment by the FBI. Then-candidate Joe Biden falsely blamed President Trump for the plot, circulating disinformation that the kidnappers had been inspired by him to commit alleged acts of violence.
Jankowicz also cited claims by a British TV channel that Cambridge Analytica had used data to “selectively target black voters with voter suppression ads.” These were negative ads about Hillary Clinton, allegedly designed to encourage black voters to stay home during the 2016 presidential election. However, Jankowicz did not actually cite any “disinformation” in the ads.
Rep. Himes was not convinced by her responses to his questions. “We’ve had misinformation and yellow journalism and terrible media and voter suppression forever,” he said.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas defended Jankowicz and the board on Sunday, saying that they would adopt “best practices” from around the world, and instruct “operators” within the department who would be the ones responsible for “executing” those policies in the field.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.