Imagine the White House being able to take an inconvenient story and label it as fake news — not just because the president or one of his allies said it, but because an official “Ministry of Truth”-like organization labeled it as “disinformation.”
“I would never want to see our executive branch have that sort of power,” a prominent disinformation expert said in May 2020.
That expert was Nina Jankowicz, then a disinformation fellow at the Wilson Institute and a media gadfly.
She has now been appointed chief of the Department of Homeland Security’s “Disinformation Governance Board” — an agency that gives President Joe Biden’s administration exactly that power.
Gee — what changed, one wonders?
(Jankowicz is hardly the only liberal whose opinion on government powers has changed since Donald Trump was in the White House — something we’ve noted here at The Western Journal. We’ll keep documenting the left’s hypocrisy and holding the establishment’s feet to the fire. You can help us by subscribing.)
Last week, Jankowicz was named the head of the new board, which is charged with countering disinformation on Russia and “irregular migration” (read: illegal immigration), according to Politico.
Not that these aren’t areas where disinformation exists, although a Disinformation Governance Board to counter the messages doesn’t sound particularly attractive when it serves the whims of the administration.
Will its entire campaign of disinformation-countering on illegal immigration be focused on convincing migrants not to buy into false promises of loopholes by human traffickers, or will some of its resources go to wallpapering over a border crisis that’s set to explode once Title 42 expires?
Will it be more concerned with countering Kremlin propaganda out of RT and Russian botnets, or will it use its purview to imply Vladimir Putin is trying to hurt Biden and the Democrats? (It doesn’t help, of course, that Jankowicz all but branded the contents of the Hunter Biden laptop as a Russian disinformation campaign.)
These sorts of concerns are why conservatives quickly branded the new agency the “Ministry of Truth” after the propaganda ministry in George Orwell’s “1984.”
It’s also why Jankowicz argued two years ago that such an agency would be a terrible idea and compared it to a similar ministry in Poland, where press freedom has long been shrinking.
The two-minute clip of her remarks from the May 2020 online conversation was compiled by Twitter user Maze.
“Imagine that, you know, with President Trump right now calling all of these news organizations that have inconvenient for him stories that they — that they’re getting out there that he’s calling fake news, and now lashing out at platforms,” Jankowicz said.
“I would never want to see our executive branch have that sort of power.”
“And that’s why, you know, the legislative process — with our duly elected officials — is really important, that sort of consultative rulemaking process, and we can’t just govern by executive order anymore,” she said.
May, 2020. Nina Jankowicz was horrified at the idea of the Executive Branch (Trump) having any say in what is true or false.
She uses Poland's "Ministry of Digitalization" as an example of "anti-democratic online governance".
She also admits to being funded by Facebook. pic.twitter.com/5XoptnuMpJ
— Maze (@mazemoore) April 29, 2022
She also thought the conversation over changing Section 230 provisions — which make it so digital platforms aren’t treated as publishers under the law — was problematic.
“I think the reverberations in the free speech space are huge,” she said. “Not to mention, this is exactly what Section 230 was designed to do, to allow the platforms to enforce the standards on their own spaces. So I think, you know, the entire conversation is being obviously blown out of proportion for political reasons.”
While the entire context wasn’t clear, it’s worth noting no less than former President Barack Obama called for potential Section 230 reform if Big Tech didn’t crack down on what he called “disinformation” just days before the formation of the Disinformation Governance Board was announced, as CNBC noted.
We’ll see whether Jankowicz and her Disinformation Governance Board join in any conversations about Section 230 in the future, because that one could sure come back and bite her.
She then transitioned to Poland.
“Poland has established this consultative process with its Ministry of Digitalization and Facebook, because, like the Trump administration, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Law and Justice Party got this idea from the Trump administration, they, they believe that there’s anti-conservative bias on Facebook, even though there have been multiple studies that prove otherwise,” Jankowicz said.
“And they have this consultative process where they send someone from the Ministry of Digitalization to discuss with Facebook’s officers in Warsaw all of the instances of unfair content moderation and some of them are being overturned through that political pressure,” she continued.
“They have a tip line that people can kind of report when they think their content has been unjustly overturned, and the Trump administration has a similar thing. So it’s providing a lot of fodder for antidemocratic online governance, and it’s very, very scary, and I think this is really where Congress needs to step in.”
About those multiple studies that prove no conservative bias on Facebook, it’s worth noting this snippet later in the conversation: “I will be completely honest and say that my program at the Wilson Center is partially funded by Facebook.”
Again, it’s worth noting that the left now thinks Big Tech has a bias against its agenda.
When no less than Barack Obama is out very loudly beating the drum about “disinformation,” saying that it’s caused people to lose trust in “mainstream media” and “political institutions” and threatening them that they need to “fix the problem that they in part helped create,” that should raise alarm bells — particularly when Obama was saying those things shortly before the Disinformation Governance Board was created.
Nina Jankowicz once effectively argued against the establishment of a government agency that would officially label something as disinformation and fight it.
She now leads one — under a Democratic president.
What a surprise.