Medium published my new article “Disinformation Czar — a Risky Gambit”
A couple of weeks ago, the Biden administration announced the establishment of the Disinformation Governance Board, headed by Nina Jankowicz, who became known as the “Disinformation Czar.” Officially, the board, which reports to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is only an advisory body. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, said that the board will “ensure that the way in which we address threats, the connectivity between threats and acts of violence are addressed without infringing on free speech — protecting civil rights and civil liberties, the right of privacy.”
However, a few days ago, the new czar, Mrs. Jankowicz, stated how the board will actually work, and it does not sound very promising for civil liberties. Explaining to listeners in a Zoom conversation who will determine what is disinformation and what is not, she said, “I am eligible for it because I’m verified, but there are a lot of people who shouldn’t be verified, who aren’t, you know, legit, in my opinion. I mean, they are real people, but they’re not trustworthy. Anyway, so verified people can essentially start to edit twitter, the same sort of way that Wikipedia is, so they can add context to certain tweets.” Following her explanation, she gave an example of a known personality tweeting something that “verified people” think is disinformation, so they will “add context” to that person’s tweet.
In describing the tempest over the DHS announcement, The Washington Post wrote, “Amid growing anti-censorship fervor on the right, a bevy of Republicans have suggested that the initiative amounts to policing speech. Elon Musk declared it ‘messed up.’ Many on the right likened it to the Ministry of Truth from George Orwell’s book ‘1984.’”
In my opinion, it is indeed a risky gambit that the US government is taking. The First Amendment, which focuses on the right to express opinions freely, is at the core of American democracy. If it fails, if people cannot express themselves, if their mouths are shut or the words changed, it is a recipe for chaos.
Especially after the two recent elections, critical voices have expressed concern about the integrity of American democracy. Even so, until now, it has been safe to voice these concerns, even if you were banned from expressing them on certain platforms.
Changing people’s own words “to give them context” is a completely different story. It is silencing them, manipulating and warping their words to say what they did not intend to say, and denying them even the ability to protest, since it is done in order to prevent disinformation.
This is complete denial of freedom of speech and freedom of expression. It is a complete abrogation of the First Amendment. As history has shown, when people feel that they have no alternative, they often resort to violence. If America has come to that, then I am genuinely worried that this could be the place where a civil war begins.