Citing online content posted by Uvalde, Texas, mass shooter Salvador Ramos before he slaughtered 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School, Vice President Kamala Harris will launch a new task force on Thursday aimed at combatting online harassment and abuse.
Dubbed by some as the “Ministry of Truth 2.0,” the task force will be co-chaired by the White House Gender Policy Council and National Security Council.
Within six months, the group will be expected to present a “blueprint” to address online abuse that includes “more support for victims, prevention and greater accountability for aggressors and platforms hosting them,” Reuters reports.
Kamala Harris is launching a task force on online harassment after shootings…..Ministry of Truth 2.0. https://t.co/uPFKTiFFpV
— 3sidedstory 🇺🇲 (@3sidedstory) June 16, 2022
“It’s imperative that we commit to better understanding and addressing the nexus between online misogyny and radicalization to violence,” said one senior administration official.
As The Washington Post points out, the launch represents the fulfillment of a campaign promise made by Biden in which he vowed to “convene experts to study online sexual harassment, stalking and nonconsensual pornography, as well as the connection between such abuse and mass shootings and violence against women.”
“We see this over and over again, we see issues of extremism and how they turn into violence,” the administration official told reporters.
This isn’t Harris’s first foray in the world of online abuse.
As a senator, Harris co-sponsored FOSTA-SESTA, a bill signed into law by former President Donald Trump that gave federal and state prosecutors more power to go after websites that host sex-trafficking ads.
According to WaPo, opponents of the law claimed it has “a chilling effect on online speech.”
The last time the White House tried to launch a task force to monitor online speech, it ended in an embarrassing disaster for the Biden administration.
New whistleblower docs shed damning new light on purpose of ‘disinformation board’, destroy DHS claims https://t.co/kme4PaS0R6
— American Wire News (@americanwire_) June 10, 2022
The failed Disinformation Governance Board claimed it would focus on foreign disinformation that endangered our democracy, but recent whistleblower documents revealed Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas was less than honest about the board’s true purpose when he testified to Congress that it “had not yet begun its work.”
Mentioned in the documents, which were obtained by Republican Senators Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and Josh Hawley (Mo.), is “disinformation related to the origins and effects of COVID-19 vaccines or the efficacy of masks,” “conspiracy theories about the validity and security of elections,” and a warning about “falsehoods surrounding U.S. Government immigration policy.”
In light of those revelations, it is understandable that some are concerned the vice president’s task force — which will feature top Biden officials, victims of online harassment, and “civil society experts” — will stay true to its focus on “illegal conduct” associated with online child pornography and trafficking, or if, like the Disinformation Governance Board, it will stray into the constitutionally-protected free speech of law-abiding Americans.
“We are very mindful of the First Amendment issues,” the Biden administration official said. “But banning threatening speech is not protected by the First Amendment. So while we are going to carefully navigate those issues, we are also going to remain laser-focused on the non-speech aspects.”
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