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White House Launches New Online Task Force

Here we go…

The Biden administration wasn’t successful at launching a ‘disinformation governance board’ using the Department of Homeland Security.

So now they’ve launched its lovechild using a White House task force. This newly revamped objective mainly circles around the LGBTQ group and specifically notes threats of violence, harassment, and stalking as a key focus—But those are already prosecutable crimes.

The task force, as it was explained on the White House’s site, claims to focus mainly on gender-related harassment online:

“Technology platforms and social media can be vital tools for expression, civic participation, and building a sense of community.  But the scale, reach, and amplification effects of technology platforms have also exacerbated gender-based violence, particularly through online harassment and abuse.  Online harassment and abuse include a broad array of harmful and sometimes illegal behaviors that are perpetrated through the use of technology.

Women, adolescent girls, and LGBTQI+ individuals, who may be additionally targeted because of their race, ethnicity, religion, and other factors, can experience more severe harms from online harassment and abuse.  Online harassment and abuse take many forms, including the non-consensual distribution of intimate digital images; cyberstalking; sextortion; doxing; malicious deep fakes; gendered disinformation; rape and death threats; the online recruitment and exploitation of victims of sex trafficking; and various forms of technology-facilitated intimate partner abuse. ”

They haven’t exactly put on paper the exact parameters and limitations if any exist, so I cannot say with any certainty things like, ‘what qualifies as harassment or ‘gender disinformation’. Will calling a biological male a ‘man’ if he identifies as a woman become a crime?

If I go off of what Kamala Harris explained in her briefing, the task force will (at least in some part) focus on name-calling:

Harris: “Nearly one in four Asian Americans report being called an offensive name, usually motivated by racism — being called an offensive name online.  And Black people who have been harassed online in our country are three times more likely to be targeted, again, because of their race.”

Now, I’m against bigotry but will it end there? If you called someone a ‘jerk’ will that be considered harassment? Where do free speech end and this task force begin? How far back will they go?

Will comedian Kevin Hart face charges for expressing how he doesn’t want his son to be trans? Or will Roseanne Barr face changes for calling another woman a character from ‘Planet of the Ape’ without first considering that person’s race?

Right now, the description of the White House Taskforce is very vague with a promise to offer clarification within a year’s time. If you get a moment to read it, I want to provide you with the link: Memorandum on the Establishment of the White House Task Force to Address Online Harassment and Abuse

At the end of Harris’s speech, AG Garland noted that online harassment is easy to commit and previously ‘hard to investigate’ but did not clarify the parameters or reach of the task force.

Erica Carlin
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