“Disinformation Czar” Jankowicz Returns as Head of New Project Before Election

by Jonathan Turley | Apr 28, 2024

Nina Jankowicz  is back . . . with a vengeance. The former head of the infamous “Disinformation Governance Board” within the Department of Homeland Security is now heading a private disinformation group called the American Sunlight Project. With a close election looming in November, Jankowicz has found funding to “to expose and oppose efforts to weaponize disinformation in the United States.” The establishment of the group is only the latest example of how many in politics and media are doubling down on efforts to paint opposing views as dangerous for democracy as the nation readies for a historic election.

Jankowicz promises that “Once researchers are free to conduct their essential work, the American people will gain a better understanding of the nature and severity of the disinformation threats we face,” she said. “Disinformation knows no political party. Its ultimate victim is our democracy.”

It is not clear who has funded the new project in an election year. However, the co-founder  is Carlos Álvarez-Aranyos, who is best known for his association with Protect Democracy, a group viewed by many as an anti-Trump and highly political outfit. Protect Democracy sued the Trump campaign based on the debunked Russian collusion claims that “the Trump Campaign conspired with Russian agents and Wikileaks to strategically disseminate the information Russia had hacked and that, in exchange, the Campaign would help Russia advance its foreign policy goals.”

The lawsuit was dismissed.

Many would call that lawsuit and the Russian collusion claims to be “disinformation,” but there is a clear bias in what is given this designation by groups pushing blacklists and censorship.

For example, according to an investigation by the Washington Examiner, the federal government helped to fund the Global Disinformation Index (GDI), which discourages advertisers from supporting sites accused of promoting disinformation.

All 10 of the sites that GDI claimed were the riskiest are popular with conservatives, libertarians and independents. GDI warned advertisers that they were accepting “reputational and brand risk” by “financially supporting disinformation online.”

The “risky” sites included Reason, a libertarian-oriented source of news and commentary about the government. Conversely, HuffPost, a far left media outlet, was included among the 10 sites at lowest risk of spreading disinformation. (GDI included USA TODAY in this group.)

I have been a long critic of Jankowicz, who became an instant Internet sensation due to a musical number in which she sang “You can just call me the Mary Poppins of disinformation” in a TikTok parody of the song “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” She later moved to join a European group as a foreign agent to continue her work to block views that she considers disinformation.

Jankowicz portrays herself as a defender of free speech who opposed efforts to censor viewpoints. As one of her critics, I strongly contest that self-portrayal.

When she was appointed the executive director of the Disinformation Governance Board in April 2022, she was tasked with combating “disinformation” on subjects ranging from the U.S. southern border to other forms of disinformation.

While Jankowicz objects to the “overly personalized, false, and incendiary coverage of me,” it is only the false part that is actionable. Coverage is allowed to be “personalized” and even “incendiary” so long as it is true or protected opinion.

She was previously criticized for allegedly spreading disinformation and advocating censorship,

Jankowicz previously argued that Congress should create new laws to block mockery of women online by reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and including “provisions against online gender-based harassment.”

Jankowicz testified before the British House of Parliament about “gender misinformation” being a “national security concern” and a threat to democracy requiring government censorship.

She demanded that both tech companies and government should work together using “creativity and technological prowess to make a pariah of online misogyny.”

On the Hunter Biden laptop, Jankowicz pushed the false narrative that it was a false story and that “we should view it as a Trump campaign product.” She continued to spread that disinformation, including tweeting a link to a news article that she said cast “yet more doubt on the provenance of the NY Post’s Hunter Biden story.” In another tweet, she added “not to mention that the emails don’t need to be altered to be part of an influence campaign. Voters deserve that context, not a [fairy] tale about a laptop repair shop.”

She even cited the author of the infamous Steele Dossier as a guide for how to deal with disinformation. In August 2020, Jankowicz tweeted “Listened to this last night – Chris Steele (yes THAT Chris Steele) provides some great historical context about the evolution of disinfo. Worth a listen.” The Steele Dossier was viewed by American intelligence as relying on a suspected Russian agent as a source. These officials warned that it was itself used as a possible Russian disinformation vehicle.

She also joined the panic over the Musk threat to reintroduce free speech values to Twitter. In an interview on NPR, she stated “I shudder to think about if free speech absolutists were taking over more platforms, what that would look like for the marginalized communities.”

In addition to her co-founder’s past advocacy, Jankowicz assembled a board that has been challenged as showing past bias. Two of the four members have close ties to Brookings Institution that was deeply involved in the Russian collusion hoax.

The new project is expected to follow the same transparently biased judgments over what is “misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation” (MDM) from the Biden Administration. The government has used this rationale to coordinate censorship in what it has called the “MDM space.”

For example, within DHS, Jen Easterly, who heads the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, extended her agency’s mandate over critical infrastructure to include “our cognitive infrastructure.” The resulting censorship efforts included combating “malinformation” – described as information “based on fact, but used out of context to mislead, harm, or manipulate.” I testified earlier on this effort.

Jankowicz famously sang how “You can just call me the Mary Poppins of disinformation.” Once again, when it comes to the use of disinformation to effectively silence others, Nina Jankowicz remains “practically perfect in every way.

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