The Department of Homeland Security announced on Wednesday that it was suspending the work of an internal advisory board intended to combat disinformation after what the department described as a deliberate disinformation campaign.
The creation of the panel, called the Disinformation Governance Board, set off a firestorm of criticism when it was announced last month. While the criticism got here from across the political spectrum, including civil liberty groups, the fiercest denunciations got here from the precise. Republican leaders and commentators talked about it as an Orwellian Ministry of Truth that might police people’s speech.
That was never the board’s mandate, a department spokesman said in a written statement. As an alternative, it was meant to coordinate the department’s various agencies within the fight against malicious disinformation by foreign adversaries, drug or human traffickers or other international crime groups.
Only weeks after its inception, nonetheless, its fate is now doubtful. Nina Jankowicz, an authority on disinformation who was chosen within the spring to guide the board, submitted her resignation on Wednesday after facing vitriolic and highly personal harassment and abuse online.
“False attacks have grow to be a big distraction from the department’s vitally essential work to combat disinformation that threatens the security and security of the American people,” the department’s statement said.
The department’s secretary, Alejandro N. Mayorkas, has asked a bipartisan pair of former officials to review the problem of fighting disinformation: Michael Chertoff, who served because the department’s secretary under President George W. Bush, and Jamie S. Gorelick, deputy attorney general under President Bill Clinton.
Mr. Mayorkas asked them to arrange recommendations inside 75 days and said the board wouldn’t convene during that period. “Its work will probably be paused,” the statement said, confirming the suspension, which was reported earlier in The Washington Post.
Ms. Jankowicz’s departure, coupled with the board’s troubled rollout, makes it unlikely that it is going to resume operating in anything like its current form.
“We’ve killed the Ministry of Truth!” one among the board’s many Republican critics, Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida, wrote on Twitter.
Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters for America, the left-leaning watchdog group, said that the opposition to the board consolidated quickly and fiercely, suggesting an organized and motivated effort. He noted that fighting disinformation has long been a part of the federal government’s efforts, going back to campaigns by the Soviet Union within the Cold War.
The present political climate, nonetheless, has made the very subject a lightning rod that, he said, officials must have anticipated higher. As an alternative, they seemed caught off guard by the response.
“I believe it’s a disservice to all of us that we lose this function, especially within the wake of what we just saw in Buffalo, because that may be a consequence of this information landscape,” Mr. Carusone said, referring to the racist mass shooting there. “It’s a tinderbox.”
Because the board’s director, Ms. Jankowicz, 33, bore the brunt of the attacks, a subject she knows well. Her most up-to-date book, called “Easy methods to Be a Woman Online,” chronicles abuses she and other women face from trolls and other malign actors on the web.
In a resignation letter submitted on Wednesday, she said that she joined the department this yr to assist address the impact of disinformation.
“It’s deeply disappointing,” she wrote, “that mischaracterizations of the Board became a distraction from the Department’s vital work, and indeed, together with recent events globally and nationally, embodies why it’s mandatory.”