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Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Josh Hawley, R-Mo., sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas with leaked whistleblower documents attached showing that the now-paused Disinformation Governance Board (DGB) planned to use Big Tech companies to target the alleged “misinformation” and “malinformation” by Americans.
Hawley and Grassley’s letter containing documents seems to confirm suspicions that the government intended to partner with tech companies to censor supposed disinformation through the DGB and use it to monitor and censor Americans’ online speech.
The two senators said that the information obtained from a whistleblower raises serious concerns about the role the DGB was supposed to play, as well as contradictions between Mayorkas’ testimony before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on May 4 when he first sprung the idea of the DGB on the American people.
Many immediately criticized the project as an effort to implement a government-run Ministry of Truth straight out of George Orwell’s novel 1984.
The whistleblower documents show that, contrary to Mayorkas’ testimony, “the DGB was established to serve as much more than a simple ‘working group’ to ‘develop guidelines, standards, [and] guardrails’ for protecting civil rights and civil liberties,” the letter states. “In fact, DHS documents show that the DGB was designed to be the Department’s central hub, clearinghouse and gatekeeper for Administration policy and response to whatever it happened to decide was ‘disinformation.’”
The letter continues,
“Specifically, documents describe a prominent DGB designed to ‘serve as the departmental forum for governance of DHS policies, plans, procedures, standards, and activities’ pertaining to what the government refers to as ‘mis-, dis-, and mal- information,’ or ‘MDM,’ ‘that threatens homeland security’ as well as the Department’s internal and external point of contact for coordination with state and local partners, non-governmental actors, and the private sector.”
The senators also raised concerns about how exactly the DGB determines what are “clear and objective facts,” particularly when much of the stated focus of the initiative was on highly political issues, such as the security of the 2020 election and the potency of COVID vaccines and masks. They also asked to explain the reasoning behind the choice of Nina Jankowicz for executive director, considering that she is a “known trafficker of foreign disinformation and liberal conspiracy theories.”
Regarding her history of peddling disinformation, Sens. Grassley and Hawley asked, “…if the (former) Executive Director of the DGB is incapable of determining what is and is not disinformation, how could the DGB ever have expected to function properly under her leadership?”
Also noted in the letter is the attempt by the Department to “operationalize” its relationships with private social media companies. DHS had scheduled a meeting with Twitter that was framed as “an opportunity to discuss operationalizing public-private partnerships between DHS and Twitter, as well as [to] inform Twitter executives about DHS work on MDM, including the creation of the Disinformation Governance Board and its analytic exchange.”
The documents show that the DHS wanted to avoid the perception of politicization and should not be the “arbiter of truth” a charge it was immediately hit with by critics.
Sens. Grassley and Hawley suggested that the DGB was, and remains, unconstitutional and warned Mayorkas against trying to do an end-run around Americans’ rights to free speech, particularly political speech. They wrote:
“The First Amendment of the Constitution was designed precisely so that the government could not censor opposing viewpoints — even if those viewpoints were false. DHS should not in any way seek to enlist the private sector to curb or silence opposing viewpoints.”
Proverbs 20:23 teaches us that “The LORD detests differing weights, and dishonest scales do not please him.” Thus, every person and every board that is in a position of authority to render judgment must do so in an unbiased and impartial manner — that is, if they intend to honor the Lord with their use of authority.
Unfortunately, it was clear that the DGB was blatantly partisan from the beginning. Even if given the benefit of the doubt that the intent was pure, these whistleblower documents only further show why the government cannot and should never attempt to censor speech. No one is correct 100 percent of the time, and as seen during COVID (one of the areas the DGB wants to control), the experts got it wrong as what was accepted as the absolute “scientific truth” changed repeatedly.
As Christians, we believe that mankind is fallen. While we can still do good, we are not fundamentally good, as we are sinful (Romans 3:10-12). That makes it very dangerous to allow even the most noble-minded and well-intentioned officials to determine what is and is not misinformation. Those in power typically have their own agendas, so granting the government the ability to censor speech, and using the private sector as a proxy partner to do an end-run around the First Amendment to monitor and censor speech, is not only a threat to our constitutional republic but it smacks of fascistic authoritarianism.
Moreover, the idea that Americans need a government agency to help them understand reality is condescending and downright insulting. Americans are fully capable of looking at the facts, sifting through varying opinions, and making up their own minds about controversies, issues, policies, and election choices. To do that most effectively, though, they need more information, not less — and certainly not just the information curated and approved by government bureaucrats.
Proverbs 29:2 says that “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan.” The “increase” here is in regard to ruling. But when the DGB was announced, there was a collective groan from many clear-thinking Americans, and many Christians, because they knew that this was the rule of the wicked. Furthermore, the Bible teaches that government exists to punish evil (Romans 13).
By upholding laws and applying the law equally, a good government protects its people. While policies aimed at stopping misinformation are ostensibly to protect us, they actually harm us. They leave us open to tyranny by government and by others such as Big Tech companies who get to decide what information we can see. They also prevent people from questioning accepted narratives that may be stopping us from finding the best possible solutions to problems.
If government is to protect people, it must let them be free. At no time is the restriction of information by the powerful safe for those under that power.