White House launches task force to study link between online harassment, mass shootings



The White House will announce on Thursday a new task force that will examine connections between online harassment, mass shootings and violence against women and members of the LGBTQ community.

The move comes after two accused lone-wolf mass shooters in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas, were linked to disturbing internet activity ahead of their massacres.

Payton Gendron, who is accused of killing 10 people in a racist attack at a Buffalo supermarket, posted a lengthy manifesto, explaining his beliefs and describing his descent into the world of online extremism.

Salvador Ramos, who killed 19 children and two students at an elementary school in Uvalde, would send cryptic, angry and scary messages to women online, including to some he didn’t know. When they didn’t respond, he threatened to rape or kidnap them, later acting as if it was a joke.

A senior administration official said the task force will examine “the nexus between online misogyny and radicalization,” adding that the Buffalo shooting “highlights the link between” being radicalized online and carrying out acts of violence.

Vice President Kamala Harris will unveil the task force at a White House event that will include Attorney General Merrick Garland and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, who will both serve on the panel.

The Gender Policy Council, which was created by President Biden, and the National Security Council will co-chair the task force.

Ultimately, the panel will issue recommendations to federal agencies, state governments, social media companies, schools, and other private organizations to address online harassment. It will include plans to deal with different types of online terror including, harassment, revenge porn, cyberstalking, and deep fakes, and how they link to offline violence.

“These recommendations will focus on increasing support for survivors of online harassment and abuse as well as research to better understand the scope of the problem,” the official told reporters.

The official said that the task force will issue recommendations for the private sector, including social media companies, but it will not focus on any specific online platform.

Administration officials touted the panel as one of several efforts by Mr. Biden to protect women, calling it one of the most aggressive attempts to stop online abuse in the U.S. 

The creation of the task force was a campaign promise by Mr. Biden, who posted a few details about it on his website shortly after he was elected in November 2020. 

In recent months, social media companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google have faced intensified pressure to curb online harassment and extremist content. The companies have taken some steps to clean up their platforms, but the problem is still a major issue across the internet.





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