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During the White House briefing on Tuesday, press secretary Jen Psaki took questions about President Biden's use of the term "ultra-MAGA."

What’s happening

Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, announced last month that a new working group had been established to combat dangerous disinformation spread by foreign adversaries and criminal networks.

The Disinformation Governance Board will monitor and respond to a wide range of false information that threatens the security of the American people. Mayorkas told CNN earlier this month that the group would advise the various arms of the government on best practices for fighting disinformation.

News of the board's creation sparked an uproar among Republican lawmakers and conservative media figures, many of whom accused the Biden administration of forming aMinistry of Truth akin to the government propaganda operation depicted in George Orwell's novel.

The board will protect Americans' freedom of speech, civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy, according to the Homeland Security officials.

Why there’s debate

The board's defenders say conservatives are pushing misinformation to stoke fear among the GOP base. They argue that the board is just another boring bureaucratic government body that will mostly serve to coordinate anti-disinformation efforts that have been carried out by various organizations for years. Proponents of the board say the government needs to develop a comprehensive response to the many forms of misinformation that pose a direct threat to American security, whether it be foreign election interference, propaganda from America's enemies or criminal schemes that contribute to instability.

Critics on the right say the Biden administration can't be trusted to serve as arbiters of truth and worry that, though the board's official mission may be narrow on paper, there's nothing to stop it from becoming a tool to suppress. There is a concern about the woman chosen to run the board. Conservatives say that Jankowicz has promoted information that is meant to hurt Republicans.

The board has been criticized by the left. The administration has been accused of bungling its roll out by failing to clearly explain its purpose, which allowed conspiratorial accusations to take root. There are people who think that monitoring information isn't the government's job and that it would be easy for the board to be corrupted by political interests.

What’s next

A group of House Republicans put forward a bill to dismantle the board. The bill has little chance of passing, but it could be a sign that the GOP will try to target the board next time Congress passes a spending package.


The board can help in the information wars.

This is a useful function. Mr. Mayorkas said that human traffickers were trying to trick the Haitian community into thinking that they could enter the United States without fear of being deported. Russia's efforts to influence U.S. elections are well known. Sharing the best practices for stymieing attempts could do a lot of good.

The government should not be in the business of patrolling free speech.

A government entity tasked with policing incorrect information online is unlikely to succeed and also a potential threat to free speech.

The board poses a threat to GOP campaigns.

Conservatives push bad-faith attacks under the guise of free speech in order to make sure that they don't push conspiracy theories. Fearmongering about the board is a page out of the conservatives' handbook.

The board could turn into a political weapon without much clearer guidelines.

The idea of the DHS speaking more clearly to let migrants understand the rules about the border is a good one. There is very little information.

It shouldn't be the government's job to fight disinformation.

Disinformation is a tricky problem for the civic health of the country, but it may be better left to organizations outside of the federal government to address, where a light touch might prove to be more effective than a heavy hand. It's hard to imagine a heavier hand than the Department of Homeland Security.

The public won't trust the information that comes from the board.

If you worked hard, you might be able to come up with an idea that is unattractive. Voters distrust the government and are concerned about excessive intrusion and regulatory power.

The wrong person was chosen to lead the board.

The appointment of Jankowicz as executive director is also ill-advised. She is an expert in misinformation. The head of the agency dealing with facts needs to be seen as being above the politics.

If the board sticks to its mission, it can provide a real service.

This proposal doesn't have to be a bad one.

The board is not likely to cause any problems.

In practice, the Disinformation Governance Board is unlikely to live up to critics' worst fears, whether it accomplishes much of anything at all or is just another hollow organ in the federal bureaucracy.

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AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana