On Thursday, Vice President Kamala Harris launched the new White House Task Force to Address Online Harassment and Abuse. The White House said it was “responding to the need for government leadership to address online harms, which disproportionately affect women, girls, people of color, and LGBTQI+ individuals.”
The White House identified the shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, as examples of online radicalization and harassment respectively. The statement underscored what Americans know too well: the internet can fuel hate, misogyny, and abuse, and the fallout can wreak havoc in our communities.
However, critics raised concerns that the new task force bore a strong semblance of the Disinformation Governance Board and questioned whether the board was repackaged and repurposed.
According to the White House memorandum, the task force will primarily address online harassment and disinformation but focus on the lop-sided harassment of women, girls and people within the LGBTQI+ community. In addition, it must submit a blueprint “outlining a whole-of-government approach to preventing and addressing technology-facilitated gender-based violence” within 180 days of the memorandum.
The recommendations will garner a focal point for the “federal government, state governments, technology platforms, schools, and other public and private entities to prevent and address technology-facilitated gender-based violence, including a focus on the nexus between online misogyny and radicalization to violence.”
The recommendations will pinpoint “increasing support for survivors of online harassment and abuse; expanding research to better understand the impact and scope of the problem; enhancing prevention, including prevention focused on youth; and strengthening accountability for offenders and platforms.”
The task force will work across multiple agencies, according to the memorandum. It will do so by developing policies to “enhance accountability for those who perpetrate online harms” and “by expanding data collection and research into the issue, which includes studying the mental health effects of abuse on social media,” as the Epoch Times reported.
“One in three women under the age of 35 report being sexually harassed online. Over half of the LGBTQ+ people in our country are survivors of severe harassment,” Vice President Kamala Harris said at the event on Thursday.
“No one should have to endure abuse just because they are attempting to participate in society,” she said.
During the Thursday White House press conference, a reporter asked Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre to clear up the language from the background call specifying the task force was different from the Disinformation Governance Board and memo reporters received. Jean-Pierre was devoid of answers.
Republican communicator Matt Whitlock tweeted, “Wow – the Kamala Harris Online Policy Task Force sounds SUSPICIOUSLY like the DHS disinformation board.
Naturally, @PressSec has no answers.
Wow – the Kamala Harris Online Policy Task Force sounds SUSPICIOUSLY like the DHS disinformation board..
Naturally @PressSec has no answers. pic.twitter.com/lykn03KHJs
— Matt Whitlock (@mattdizwhitlock) June 16, 2022