WASHINGTON (AP) — The Department of Homeland Security is stepping up efforts to counter disinformation from Russia as well as misleading information circulated by human traffickers to target migrants waiting to travel to the US-Mexico border.
“The spread of disinformation can affect border security, the safety of Americans during disasters, and public confidence in our democratic institutions,” the department said in a statement Wednesday. He declined an interview request from The Associated Press.
A newly formed Disinformation Governance Board announced Wednesday that it will immediately begin targeting misinformation targeting migrants, an issue that has helped fuel sudden changes. waves at the southern US border in recent years. Human smugglers often spread misinformation about border policies to boost business.
Last September, for example, the confusion surrounding President Biden’s immigration policies combined with messages shared widely in the Haitian community on Meta’s Facebook and WhatsApp platforms led some of the 14,000 migrants to the border city of Del Rio, Texas, where they set up camp. Some were eventually expelled and were transferred outside of the US.
“We are very concerned that Haitians who are taking the irregular migration route are receiving misinformation that the border is open,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alexander Mayorcas he said at the time.
The new board will also monitor and prepare for Russian disinformation threats such as midterm elections this year close and the Kremlin continues with an aggressive disinformation campaign around the war in ukraine. Russia has repeatedly waged disinformation campaigns targeting US audiences to heighten divisions around election time and spread conspiracy theories. around US COVID-19 vaccines. More recently, Russian state media, social media accounts and officials have used the Internet to so-called false photographs, reports and videos of bombed bodies and buildings in Ukraine.
The board will be led by disinformation expert Nina Jankowicz, who has researched Russian disinformation tactics and online harassment.
During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden, a Democrat, repeatedly said he would push tech companies, including Facebook, to crack down on misinformation and conspiracy theories that have overwhelmed social media and its users.
Dozens of Republican lawmakers and pundits took to social media Wednesday to widely criticize the new board and call for its dissolution.
“Instead of policing our border, Homeland Security has decided to make policing the speech of Americans its top priority,” a tweet from US Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri read in part. “They are creating a Disinformation Board.”
DHS said in its statement that the board will “protect privacy, civil rights and civil liberties” as part of its duties.