Biden's US counter-disinformation adviser resigns after two months on the job

Ms Nina Jankowicz said she was expecting a baby and "spending time with my family is first priority". PHOTO: WICZIPEDIA/TWITTER

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The head of the Biden administration's disinformation-fighting advisory group has resigned, she told Reuters on Wednesday (May 18) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said it had paused the group's activities.

Ms Nina Jankowicz, who started work as the executive director of the DHS's Disinformation Governance Board in March, said she was expecting a baby and "spending time with my family is first priority".

"In the fall, I plan to continue the work I've done throughout my career building awareness of disinformation in the public sphere, working on issues related to Russia's war in Ukraine, and continuing my work related to women's online expression," she said.

The board's creation and the last month's announcement that Ms Jankowicz had been appointed to run it provoked a fierce reaction from right-wing critics and drew scepticism from some experts in the field.

Far-right figures - many of whom have spread Republican former President Donald Trump's lies about Democrat Joe Biden stealing the 2020 election - accused the administration of setting up a "Ministry of Truth" in the vein of the totalitarian propaganda agency described in George Orwell's novel "Nineteen Eighty-Four."

Ms Jankowicz herself became a particular focus of abuse.

The DHS said in a statement that the board was being "grossly and intentionally mischaracterised."

"It was never about censorship or policing speech in any manner. It was designed to ensure we fulfil our mission to protect the homeland, while protecting core Constitutional rights."

DHS said the board was intended to advise the government on how to fight lies spread by, for example, foreign countries such as Russia or China, or human traffickers using false assurances to lure migrants into crossing the border into the United States.

But the message was lost among the backlash from the right, and DHS said it was pausing the board's activity pending a "thorough review."

The Washington Post first reported news of Ms Jankowicz's resignation and a pause to the board's activity.

Although some experts had doubts about the appropriateness of a disinformation board operating out of DHS, they condemned the attacks on Ms Jankowicz.

"I welcome the pausing of the 'Disinformation Governance Board' after just 3 weeks - I believe this was a major strategic error of the administration," said Ms Emma Briant, a visiting research associate at Bard College in New York state.

But she said on Twitter that it was "utterly abhorrent" that Ms Jankowicz had been turned into a punching bag.

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