Three weeks: That’s how long it took for the Department of Homeland Security to go from announcing a board intended to combat disinformation to suspending it.
In those three weeks, both the Disinformation Governance Board and its leader, Nina Jankowicz, came under relentless and sometimes vicious attack from right-wing media and Republican lawmakers.
DHS initially shared few details about the board’s function and purview, leading to speculation and fears it would police online speech.
As the board’s public face, Jankowicz became a lighting rod. A well-regarded authority in online disinformation, who has studied Russian information operations and advised governments including that of former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, she was accused of being a Democratic hack.
Conservatives seized on her tweets and past public statements as evidence of her partisan bias. The attacks got personal: Jankowicz has been barraged with abuse, harassment and death threats.
It all culminated Wednesday in DHS’s decision to put the board on pause for 75 days while the agency reviews its work addressing disinformation. The same day, Jankowicz quit.
Jankowicz spoke with NPR about the board’s botched rollout, what she had hoped to accomplish, and the irony of an effort to combat disinformation being derailed by disinformation. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.