Letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas regarding “Disinformation Governance Board”

May 3, 2022 – Today, Protect Democracy, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas expressing significant concerns over the Department’s “Disinformation Governance Board.”

The groups appreciate and acknowledge the Department’s recognition that mis- and disinformation can distort public discourse, interfere with elections, and undermine democracy. And they believe that among the set of solutions needed are the provision of timely, accurate, and trustworthy information by the government, as well as longer term support for education initiatives that will help individuals gain media literacy.

But rather than building trust, demonstrating a commitment to civil rights, and explaining itself fulsomely, the Department’s public announcement of the Board has fallen short on those fronts. The lack of clarity is particularly concerning, given the Department’s poor track record when it comes to “monitoring” individual’s First Amendment–protected activities. From illegally surveilling Reverend Kaji Douša after she spoke out against the Trump Administration’s immigration policies, to gathering intelligence on reporters that cover the Department, to monitoring the social media accounts of visa applicants, the Department has demonstrated a readiness to cross the legal bounds of privacy and speech rights. Coupled with the Department’s checkered record on civil liberties, the Department’s muddled announcement of the Board has squandered the trust that would be required for the Board to fulfill its mission.

The groups accordingly call on the Department to reconsider its decision to create the Board or, at a minimum, promptly provide further clarity on the kinds of specific activities the Board will engage in and the activities it will be prohibited from engaging in.

To read the full letter, click HERE.

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