Homeland Security is still evaluating the future of Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ “disinformation board,” but it will have to overcome major misgivings among the public, according to a poll released Monday that underscored just how “highly unpopular” the idea was.
The idea won disfavor from 55% of respondents who were closely following the saga, including 32% who said they had “no trust at all” in the ability of the department to decide what constitutes disinformation, according to a TIPP Insights survey.
Just 42% did trust the board, with only 19% of those saying they had “quite a bit of trust” that the panel could reliably ascertain disinformation.
“In short, it was a highly unpopular idea,” the pollsters said, speculating that those kinds of polling numbers are why Mr. Mayorkas hit pause on the idea last week.
Homeland Security said the rollout of the idea, which Mr. Mayorkas first teased in congressional testimony late last month, went so poorly that it needed a reset.
The board was told not to meet or perform any work, amid a 75-day review of the department’s disinformation activities.
Nina Jankowicz, the board’s embattled director who brought her own history of questioning free speech and spreading questionable information, quit the panel, citing “mischaracterizations.”
The department also said the board had become mischaracterized and was not intended to police Americans’ speech.
But what the board was meant to do was never made particularly clear, leaving it to politicians to read their own motives into the board, and Republicans said they saw the panel as a “Ministry of Truth.”
Even as it shut down the board’s activities, Homeland Security said in a statement that Mr. Mayorkas still believed in the idea and had asked two senior former government officials to conduct a study on how to reboot the department’s efforts.
The department said they are studying how Homeland Security can tackle “disinformation” while respecting civil liberties and increasing “trust with the public.”
Those officials are former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who served in the George W. Bush administration, and former Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick, who served in the Clinton administration.
They are working through the Homeland Security Advisory Committee, a panel Mr. Mayorkas cleaned out at the start of his term, and reconstituted with picks of his own choosing.