Fact Check: Disinformation 'Czar' Did NOT Say She Wants 'Trustworthy Verified People' Like Herself To Be Able To 'Add Context' To Other People's Tweets

Fact Check

  • by: Dana Ford
Fact Check: Disinformation 'Czar' Did NOT Say She Wants 'Trustworthy Verified People' Like Herself To Be Able To 'Add Context' To Other People's Tweets Out of Context

Did White House disinformation "czar" Nina Jankowicz say she wants "trustworthy verified people" like her to be able to "add context" to other people's tweets? No, that's not true: Her clipped comments from January 2021 were taken out of context. Jankowicz, who in April 2022 was named executive director of the Department of Homeland Security's Disinformation Governance Board, was responding to a question about Birdwatch, Twitter's crowd-sourced fact-checking pilot that had just launched. She was explaining her understanding of the project, about which she expressed some interest but also skepticism and doubt about its ability to work.

The claim appeared in a Facebook post published by Sean Hannity on May 11, 2022. The post included a minute-long clip of Jankowicz speaking during an online meeting. The post read:

Biden's New 'Disinformation' Czar Wants 'Trustworthy Verified People' Like Her To Be Able To 'Add Context' To Other People's Tweets

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

image (82).png

Facebook screenshot(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Fri May 13 19:41:31 2022 UTC)

Jankowicz was a guest speaker at a meeting of Georgia Independent School Librarians held in January 2021. The full meeting, running nearly 90 minutes, can be watched here, as well as below. The relevant comments start around the 1:13:45 timestamp.

As is clear from the full video, Jankowicz was responding to a question about Birdwatch. Twitter's crowd-sourced fact-checking pilot had just launched and there was confusion about what exactly it entailed. Jankowicz took a stab at explaining the project while noting at the 1:13:58-mark of the full video: "I haven't looked into this in a huge way yet because it just came out."

Jankowicz continued:

I am eligible for it because I'm verified. But there are a lot of people who shouldn't be verified who aren't, you know, legit, in my opinion. I mean, they are real people but they're not trustworthy. Anyway, so verified people can essentially start to edit Twitter -- the same sort of way that Wikipedia is -- so they can add context to certain tweets.

Those comments were included in the Facebook post, but it didn't include Jankowicz's subsequent remarks, which were more skeptical of the project. In the full video, Jankowicz continued at the 1:15:54-mark:

I like the idea of adding more context to claims and tweets and other content online, rather than just removing it. It is a problem of scale, ultimately. Twitter is a much smaller platform than something like Facebook or YouTube.

At the 1:16:24-mark, she added:

It's also a little bit rich that these multibillion corporations are asking for volunteer fact-checkers to do their work for them.

And, finally, at the 1:17:10-mark:

I'm not sure it's the solution.

Twitter launched Birdwatch in January 2021 in a bid to address misinformation on its site. The idea is to allow users to write notes, providing context to tweets that they believe are misleading. In its first phase, notes were only visible on a separate site but, in March 2022, Twitter announced that it had expanded the visibility of Birdwatch by allowing a small group of users to see notes directly on some tweets.

  Dana Ford

Dana Ford is an Atlanta-based reporter and editor. She previously worked as a senior editor at Atlanta Magazine Custom Media and as a writer/ editor for CNN Digital. Ford has more than a decade of news experience, including several years spent working in Latin America.

Read more about or contact Dana Ford

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