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DeSantis vows to fight Biden administration's Disinformation Governance Board

The governor isn't the only critic.

LEVY COUNTY, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is slamming the federal government's creation of the Disinformation Governance Board under the oversight of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

"I honestly thought this was just a belated April Fool's joke," the governor quipped during an unrelated news conference Friday in Levy County.

DeSantis is joining the chorus of voices questioning the existence of a new federal government board that could decide what is and isn't acceptable online speech.

"It's basically a Ministry of Truth," DeSantis said. "And what they want to do is they want to be able to put out false narratives without people being able to speak out and fight back. They want to be able to say things like 'Russia collusion' and perpetuate hoaxes and then have people like us be silenced."

DeSantis isn't the only critic to compare it to a "Ministry of Truth," which was the name for the censorship and propaganda department in George Orwell's dystopian fiction novel 1984. Free speech advocates and conservative politicians have warned about the board and pondered where its existence could lead.

Supporters, on the other hand, argue the board is necessary to combat disinformation campaigns, including ones coming from Russia and from the Southern Border. They suggest human smugglers have spread misinformation about border policies to drum up business and argue that has partially contributed to the recent surge of migrants at the US-Mexico border, something this board could help fix.

“The spread of disinformation can affect border security, Americans’ safety during disasters, and public trust in our democratic institutions,” DHS wrote in a statement. 

DHS declined an interview with the Associated Press. But, Democratic officials are largely standing behind the idea for the board. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki expressed support while speaking to reporters Thursday, telling Fox News correspondent Jacqui Heinrich that "we, of course, support this effort."

Back in Florida, DeSantis vowed the state would fight back against it.

"They want to be able to advocate for COVID lockdowns," DeSantis said. "They want to be able to advocate for school closures – things that are not supported by the evidence. But then when you speak out, they want to stifle dissent. And so we reject this bureau in the state of Florida."

The new board will be led by Nina Jankowicz, a disinformation researcher and global fellow at the Wilson Center – a think tank. According to her online biography, she has advised the Ukrainian government on strategic communications through a Fulbright-Clinton Public Policy Fellowship.

Her appointment set off alarms among some free speech advocates and in the conservative media. In an editorial, the New York Post dubbed Jankowicz "a veteran disinfo spreader" and pointed to her perpetuation of the Hunter Biden laptop story. As The Atlantic explained in a recent analysis, many of the emails at the center of that story – which was originally dismissed by much of the mainstream media – have since been verified by legacy newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post.

DeSantis on Friday described Jankowicz as somebody who "herself has put out disinformation" as he spoke out against the new board.

"We believe it's essential that individual Floridians and Americans are able to speak out against false narratives trying to be jammed down our throats by this regime," DeSantis said of the Biden administration's decision.

Amanda Seitz at the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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