Homeland Security Solicited Twitter To ‘Become Involved’ in Disinfo Board

Nina Jankowicz (DHS/Wikimedia Commons)
June 9, 2022

The Department of Homeland Security worked with Twitter on its ill–fated Disinformation Governance Board, according to whistleblower documents, which show the agency arranged a meeting with the Twitter executive who blocked news stories about Hunter Biden’s laptop.

Department officials set up an April 28 meeting to ask Twitter to "become involved" in the disinformation project, according to a DHS itinerary. The meeting was planned with Yoel Roth, the Twitter executive behind the controversial decision to block New York Post stories about Biden’s laptop from being shared on the platform in October 2020. 

The whistleblower documents, released by Republican senators on Wednesday, show Homeland Security’s plans for the disinformation board were more extensive than previously acknowledged. The department publicly announced the board on April 27, but did not disclose plans to work with social media companies. Homeland Security chief Alejandro Mayorkas said the board would function as a "working group" to track disinformation regarding human smuggling operations and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He insisted the board would have no "operational authority or capability," though the itinerary for the Twitter meeting shows DHS saw it as "an opportunity to discuss operationalizing public-private partnerships between DHS and Twitter."

The board came under intense scrutiny not only for its Orwellian-sounding name, but also the past comments of Nina Jankowicz, the board’s executive director. Jankowicz pushed the unfounded claim that Biden’s laptop emails were hacked or part of a Russian disinformation campaign. She also called on social media platforms, law enforcement officials, and lawmakers to crack down on content she deems "awful but lawful." 

According to the documents, Homeland Security officials planned to offer government data to Twitter to help the disinformation board’s work. The DHS itinerary for the meeting urged Rob Silvers, the undersecretary for strategy, policy, and plans, to ask what data "would be useful for Twitter to receive" to help the company counter disinformation. 

Sens. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) and Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) said the documents "raise concerns" that DHS is enlisting the help of "social media companies and big tech" to censor viewpoints deemed to be disinformation. 

"DHS should not in any way seek to enlist the private sector to curb or silence opposing viewpoints," the senators wrote Mayorkas. 

The Republicans noted it is unclear whether DHS held the April 28 meeting with Twitter. Neither DHS nor Twitter responded to Free Beacon requests for comment. 

Grassley and Hawley suggested in their letter to Mayorkas that Jankowicz was selected to lead the disinformation board because she had worked with Twitter’s Roth. The DHS itinerary for the April 28 meeting notes that Jankowicz and Roth knew each other. 

Roth, who recently unveiled Twitter’s "crisis management policy," came under fire for blocking access to the Post stories about Hunter Biden’s laptop. Roth said he made the decision after American intelligence officials told him in meetings before the 2020 election that foreign actors might release materials hacked from Hunter Biden. 

To date, there is no evidence that Biden’s emails were hacked or that his laptop was mishandled. A computer shop owner said Biden dropped off his laptop for repairs in April 2019 but never came back to retrieve it. Federal prosecutors are investigating Biden’s business dealings, many of which are discussed on the laptop.