Kamala Harris Launches Task Force Against Online Abuse


Kamala Harris Launches Task Force Against Online Abuse

Vice President Kamala Harris announces the launch of the Task Force on Online Harassment and Abuse Thursday at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC Photo by Ron Sachs/UPI | license photo

June 17 (UPI) — Vice President Kamala Harris launched a White House task force with a mission to combat online harassment and abuse following a series of mass shootings that are linked to online hate.

Harris announced the task force Thursday during a roundtable discussion with officials, advocates and survivors, stating that “no one should have to endure abuse just because they’re trying to participate in society.”

“The Internet is an essential part of life in the 21st century,” he said. “And for too many people… the internet is a scary place.”

The working group was established through a memorandum signed by President Joe Biden, fulfilling a campaign promise he made to combat hate online.

A senior administration official talking to reporters On Wednesday night he said the task force’s mission is to address this growing problem, “which disproportionately targets women, girls and LGBTQI+ people.”

“The president made this commitment because in the United States, one in three women under the age of 35 report being sexually harassed online, and more than half of LGBTQI+ people report being subjected to serious online abuse,” he said. the official.

The memorandum states that online harassment and abuse includes the non-consensual distribution of intimate images, cyber bullying, sextortion, gender misinformation, and the recruitment and exploitation of victims of sex trafficking, as well as rape and threats. death, among others.

The working group will focus on prevention, services and support for survivors, research on the scope and impact of the problem, accountability, and the connection between online hate and extremist violence.

Within 180 days, the task force will present Biden with a plan that outlines recommendations for the federal and state governments, as well as technology platforms, schools and other public and private entities.

During her remarks, Harris said the United States continues to witness acts of mass violence following online hate speech and abuse, highlighting connections seen in recent mass shootings that have left dozens of Americans dead.

She said the shooter who killed 10 black people in a Buffalo, New York supermarket on May 14 was a white supremacist who radicalized online and that the shooter who killed 19 students and two teachers at a New York elementary school Texas 10 days later had threatened to kidnap, rape and kill teenagers on Instagram.

Harris added that one of the girls who said she was harassed online by Salvador Ramos, 18, the gunman accused of the Uvalde school shooting, said that’s how it is “online.”

“Think about it,” Harris said. “Hate has become so common on the internet that as a society it is becoming normalized and for users, some might say it is inevitable.”

a fact sheet of the White House underscored the connection between online hate and real-world violence, stating that “the Internet can fuel hate, misogyny, and abuse with spillover effects that threaten our communities and online safety.”

Sloane Stephens, US Open tennis champion, survivor of online hate, and advocate, spoke to Harris and described how she constantly deals with hate online, including credible threats.

“It’s so uplifting to constantly stand up for myself and relive the trauma of these messages knowing I’m getting more messages because I’m speaking out,” she said. “No matter what emojis I block or filters I put on, I’ve learned that when someone is determined to be abusive and threatening, they get very creative.”

She said she “loves” social media, which she uses to communicate with friends, family and her community, but “in that very inbox there are people threatening to hurt me.”

The announcement came months after the Violence Against Women Act was reauthorized and updated to allow victims of cyber exploitation to sue their abusers in federal civil court.

Harris on Thursday called this progress but said there is more work to be done.

“This affects all of us if it affects any of us,” Harris said. “And so all of us have a responsibility to come together to support those who have been through this, but also recognize that they shouldn’t be alone fighting this problem.”


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