Politics

New Group Joins the Political Fight Over Disinformation Online

Two years ago, Nina Jankowicz briefly led an agency at the Department of Homeland Security created to fight disinformation — the establishment of which provoked a political and legal battle over the government’s role in policing lies and other harmful content online that continues to reverberate.

Now she has re-entered the fray with a new nonprofit organization intended to fight what she and others have described as a coordinated campaign by conservatives and others to undermine researchers, like her, who study the sources of disinformation.

Already a lightning rod for critics of her work on the subject, Ms. Jankowicz inaugurated the organization with a letter accusing three Republican committee chairmen in the House of Representatives of abusing their subpoena powers to silence think tanks and universities that expose the sources of disinformation.

“These tactics echo the dark days of McCarthyism, but with a frightening 21st-century twist,” she wrote in the letter on Monday with the organization’s co-founder Carlos Álvarez-Aranyos, a public-relations consultant who in 2020 was involved in efforts to defend the integrity of the American voting system.

The inception of the group, the American Sunlight Project, reflects how divisive the issue of identifying and combating disinformation has become as the 2024 presidential election approaches. It also represents a tacit admission that the informal networks formed at major universities and research organizations to address the explosion of disinformation online have failed to mount a substantial defense against a campaign, waged largely on the right, depicting their work as part of an effort to silence conservatives.

Taking place in the courts, in conservative media and on the Republican-led House Judiciary Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, the campaign has largely succeeded in eviscerating efforts to monitor disinformation, especially around the integrity of the American election system.

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