The bad news is that the Biden administration’s notorious Disinformation Governance Board, a flagrantly unconstitutional effort to restrict the freedom of speech that was “paused” in May after an avalanche of criticism, is back (although its Orwellian name is still on ice). The good news is that heading up Biden’s handlers’ new foray into authoritarianism is none other than Vice President Kamala Harris. This is good news because Harris has handled the previous jobs she has been given with spectacular ineptitude. If she stays true to form this time, she may end up actually strengthening speech protections, rather than destroying them as she has been tasked to do.
The new incarnation of the Disinformation Governance Board, announced Thursday, will, according to the New York Post, be focused on “developing programs and policies” that will protect “political figures” from “disinformation,” “abuse” and “harassment.” This is already treading dangerous ground in terms of the First Amendment, as “abuse” and “harassment,” to say nothing of “disinformation,” are subjective terms. What is to prevent the person who is charged with judging what constitutes them — Kamala Harris, evidently — from considering sharp criticism, or even any criticism at all, no matter how accurate or justified, to be abuse or harassment?
But the new Task Force is being presented solely as a safeguard against the mistreatment of prominent women and gays online. It was established by a presidential memorandum that explained: “In the United States and around the world, women and LGBTQI+ political leaders, public figures, activists, and journalists are especially targeted by sexualized forms of online harassment and abuse, undermining their ability to exercise their human rights and participate in democracy, governance, and civic life. Online abuse and harassment, which aim to preclude women from political decision-making about their own lives and communities, undermine the functioning of democracy.” So do government restrictions on speech.
This tactic of introducing speech restrictions on the pretext of combating online abuse is a hangover from the original Disinformation Governance Board, whose chief, Nina Jankowicz, on Jan. 28, 2021 published a lengthy article in Wired entitled “Online Harassment Toward Women Is Getting Even More Insidious: From coded memes to deepfake porn, abusive disinformation campaigns are sliding past moderation tools. Platforms, Congress, and employers need to help women fight back.”
On the same day, Jankowicz tweeted: “For @WIRED, I wrote about the online gendered abuse I experienced, and the attacks we tracked against @KamalaHarris, @AOC, @IlhanMN, & more. Platforms and governments aren’t doing enough. It’s time to act. Our national security and democracy are at stake.” Apparently conservative women don’t experience any online harassment; that’s only for Leftist women.
Ominously, Jankowicz declared in her article that “Congress should reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and include provisions against online gender-based harassment.” If the definition of “violence” is to be redefined to include certain types of speech, the door is opened to all manner of censorship. Anything can be said to be speech that might lead to violence, including political dissent, and silenced accordingly.
But that doesn’t seem to be a problem for Biden’s handlers. The new Task Force is not just headed by Harris, but is staffed with administration mainstays including DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Gestapo chief Merrick Garland, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
This sinister group will hold its first meeting Thursday and then over the next six months will submit a plan to Old Joe that will detail “a whole-of-government approach to preventing and addressing technology-facilitated gender-based violence, including concrete actions that executive departments, agencies, and offices have committed to take to implement the Task Force’s recommendations.” By six months after that, the group will make “additional recommendations and actions” for steps that Internet platforms and public schools can take.
Biden’s handlers insist, however, that nothing authoritarian is afoot here. All the new Task Force will do is target “online activities that are illegal conduct, such as cyber stalking or non consensual distribution of intimate images, or targeted harassment.” But that sounds like more Biden disinformation. Do the vice president, the secretary of state, the attorney general, and the Homeland Security secretary really need to be involved in efforts to fight cyber stalking?
Even worse, the Task Force intends to protect journalists from this alleged harassment: “The Task Force shall work across executive departments, agencies, and offices to assess and address online harassment and abuse that constitute technology-facilitated gender-based violence, including by… developing programs and policies to address online harassment, abuse, and disinformation campaigns targeting women and LGBTQI+ individuals who are public and political figures, government and civic leaders, activists, and journalists in the United States and globally.” Journalists getting government protection from criticism? Oh yeah, no First Amendment problems there.
The only silver lining here is that Harris, who failed so spectacularly to contain the border crisis and to stop war in Ukraine, is in charge. If she fails again here, the freedom of speech might survive a bit longer.