A new government board intended to fight the spread of disinformation will not infringe on free speech, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas pledged Sunday, admitting the purpose of the panel could have been communicated better.
In an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Mayorkas said the board has a narrowly defined mission to address “disinformation that presents a security threat to the homeland…. Disinformation from Russia, from China, from Iran, from the cartels.”
“ “We’re not the opinion police.” ”
— Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas
“Our work does not infringe on free speech, infringe on civil rights or civil liberties,” he continued. “An individual has the free speech right to spew anti-semitic rhetoric. What they don’t have the right to do is take hostages in a synagogue.”
The Disinformation Governance Board, announced last week, drew immediate fire from some conservatives who worry it will be used to silence them. In a statement last week, Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio — who has authored law to combat foreign propaganda and disinformation — said he was “deeply concerned” by the creation of the board. “I do not believe that the United States government should turn the tools that we have used to assist our allies counter foreign adversaries onto the American people.”
Mayorkas said Sunday that the mission of the board could have been presented clearer.
“There are people in the department who have a diverse range of views, and they’re incredibly dedicated to the mission,” he said. “We’re not the opinion police.”
While the terms “disinformation” and “misinformation” are often used interchangeably, “disinformation” actually refers to deliberately deceptive messaging, often used by governments and intelligence agencies as a tool of subversion.