EXCLUSIVE — House Republicans will unveil legislation Thursday to ban the Department of Homeland Security from forming another Disinformation Governance Board after the panel was shuttered last year amid censorship concerns from conservatives.
The bill, which is being introduced by Rep. August Pfluger (R-TX) along with Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Ronny Jackson (R-TX), aims to mandate that federal funds cannot be “authorized to be appropriated or otherwise made available” to the DHS for establishing a governance board. The agency in August 2022 notably terminated its panel, which claimed it would be focused on thwarting alleged misinformation, “malinformation,” and disinformation in the United States, just months after launching.
“Partisan government officials running a ‘disinformation board’ sounds ridiculous to most people, but yet the Biden administration tried to control the speech of American citizens,” Pfluger, who along with Greene sits on the Homeland Security Committee, told the Washington Examiner. “DHS should be focused on securing the border and preventing terrorist attacks, not fact-checking social media and censoring Americans.”
Republicans have increasingly pursued avenues to restrict the Biden administration’s ability to track purported disinformation, including by backing appropriations bills that seek to choke off federal funding for related programs.
For instance, as part of an effort to fight apparent censorship, the GOP-led House Foreign Affairs Committee is mulling not reauthorizing the Global Engagement Center, a State Department-housed interagency the Washington Examiner reported granted $100,000 to the Global Disinformation Index, a British group covertly blacklisting conservative outlets, according to a source familiar.
It’s also not the first time Republicans have sought to use formal powers to block DHS from operating a so-called governance board. Last May, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) led 61 GOP members, including Pfluger, in introducing legislation that would “prohibit any federal funds from being used to establish or carry out the activities of any other entity that is substantially similar” to the board — which they dubbed the “Ministry of Truth.”
“Instead of censoring and controlling every aspect of the American public’s lives, DHS should focus on the crisis at the southern border,” Jackson told the Washington Examiner. “I have faith in the American people to decipher knowledge for themselves. I do not have any faith in so-called ‘disinformation experts’ from the Biden administration.”
Before being dissolved, the DHS Governance Board was led by Nina Jankowicz, a researcher whom Republicans accused of promoting conspiracy theories online and being supportive of censorship efforts against conservatives. Jankowicz sowed doubt previously on the COVID-19 lab leak theory, which the Energy Department now determines to be the most likely cause for the spread of the virus. She also promoted false claims seeking to link former President Donald Trump to Russia, the Washington Examiner reported.
Jankowicz was subpoenaed in March to appear before Congress by House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH). Jordan said in his subpoena that she had “declined to comply voluntarily with our request for a transcribed interview,” and he sought information on how the DHS board “planned to collect information and from what sources” as well as “how it anticipated countering disinformation, and how it proposed to protect First Amendment rights.”
Meanwhile, the DHS-housed Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s defunct Misinformation and Disinformation Subcommittee has come under heightened scrutiny from Republicans over its alleged censorship of disfavored speech. Vijaya Gadde, a former subcommittee member and Twitter’s ex-chief legal officer, suggested in June 2022 that her CISA panel colleagues “meet with” the Global Disinformation Index, among other groups, the Washington Examiner reported.
The House Judiciary Committee alleged in a June report that CISA has been “censoring Americans’ political speech,” citing its apparent ties to social media companies. Gadde, who was fired by Twitter owner Elon Musk in October 2022 after his takeover of the company, now known as X, reportedly approved Twitter’s decision before the 2020 presidential election to restrict links from being shared in connection to a New York Post report on Hunter Biden’s infamous abandoned laptop.
Pfluger added that he is introducing the DHS bill “to protect free speech.”
“Unfortunately, the Biden regime has taken a troubling path, actively censoring Americans and viewpoints they disagree with,” Greene told the Washington Examiner. “They even established a communist-style ‘Disinformation Governance Board’ to carry out their censorship agenda. Our government should never censor its own citizens, yet the Biden regime boldly did so until public outrage forced it to be disbanded.”
The DHS did not return a request for comment.