"If you want to read a blog to get a sense of what is going on in Hong Kong these days or a blog that would tell you what life was like living in colonial Hong Kong, this blog, WALTER'S BLOG, fits the bill." Hong Kong Blog Review
“Of course, governments aren’t above using disinformation to achieve their objectives.”
Regulars will know I’m intrigued by the role that disinformation plays in shaping events. That fascination was spurred on by events in Hong Kong during 2019, when the Internet proved a poweful tool for all sides, as in a heady mix, information and disinformation became weaponised.
Thus when President Biden decided to create a 'Disinformation Governance Board' I was both curious and skeptical. After all, with so much misleading information on the Internet, such a forum could help put the record straight. But, did the authors of the policy understand the powerful forces they were about to trigger.
Oddly, the 'Disinformation Governance Board' came housed within the Department of Homeland Security. That immediately rang alarm bells, with claims Biden sought to create an Orwellian 'Ministry of Truth'. Moreover, the name itself raised eyebrows.
Some questioned if the U.S. government is screening disinformation material to allow some as 'useful' while blocking other stuff as 'unhelpful'. Hence, this is starting to look like a freedom of speech issue, and nothing gets the Internet riled more than that. Soon opinions circulated that U.S. citizens could be the board's target, which ramped up all the conspiracy clowns. It was manna from heaven for them.
Then things got worst; Biden appointed Nina Jankowicz to head the board. Miss Jankowicz is the author of "How to Be a Woman Online". Plus, she is a lady with a considerable Internet footprint, who claims to be an expert in the field of disinformation.
Unfortunately, due diligence doesn't appear to have been part of the selection process. But don't worry - Netizens were soon on the case. They discovered that Miss Jankowicz has an extensive history of promoting baseless Trump-Russia collusion claims from Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign.
Besides, Jankowicz shared other false claims, including material sourced from former British spy Christopher Steele's discredited dossier. Also, Miss Jankowicz worked to downplay the Hunter Biden laptop story, seeking to portray it as a Russian influence operation. But, of course, we now know that is false.
But, the Netizens hadn't finished with Miss Jankowicz. Her entire Twitter history and several stupid TikTok videos surfaced to cause embarrassment. So, Miss Jankowicz resigned, and the 'Disinformation Governance Board' closed at the end of May. It is unlikely to be back.
The board's fate is proof that officials still don't comprehend the leverage that motivated citizens have through the Internet. At the same time, as the definition of 'disinformation' remains blurry and as the Internet transcends national borders, efforts to combat it are bound to stumble. For starters, are the purveyors of even clearly threatening disinformation, foreign or domestic? It's sometimes difficult to decide. And what happens when disinformation is mixed with the truth?
Of course, governments aren’t above using disinformation to achieve their objectives. Therefore, they can hardly complain when this double-edged sword cuts them.
One thing is sure; the Internet never forgets. Unfortunately, Miss Jankowicz learnt that lesson the hard way. I wonder if she’ll be putting out a revised edition of her other book “How to lose the Information War”?
Walter De Havilland was one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Royal Hong Kong Police and Hong Kong Police Force. He's long retired.