According to a White House fact sheet, one in three women under the age of 35 in the United States report being sexually harassed online, and over half of LGBTQI+ individuals report being the target of severe online abuse.
Further, administration officials said that individuals may also be disproportionately targeted because of their race, gender and gender identity, ethnicity, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, or at the intersection of various identities.
On June 16, President Joe Biden announced the signing of a Presidential Memorandum establishing the White House Task Force to Address Online Harassment and Abuse.
White House officials said the president is responding to the need for government leadership to address online harms, which disproportionately affect women, girls, people of color and LGBTQI+ individuals.
Vice President Kamala Harris launched the task force by hosting a survivor and expert roundtable.
“The tragic events in Buffalo and Uvalde have underscored a fact known all too well by many Americans: the internet can fuel hate, misogyny, and abuse with spillover effects that threaten our communities and safety offline,” the fact sheet stated.
It noted that when Biden initially wrote and championed the Violence Against Women Act in the 1990s, the internet hadn’t become what the world knows it as today. It has transformed the ability to connect, communicate, and access services and support, officials noted.
At the same time, social media and other forms of technology have increasingly been misused as tools of abuse, harassment and exploitation, the officials emphasized.
The White House noted that the task force counts as an interagency effort to address online harassment and abuse, specifically focused on technology-facilitated gender-based violence.
According to the Fact Sheet, in consultation with survivors, advocates, educators, experts from diverse fields, and the private sector, the task force will develop specific recommendations to improve prevention, response, and protection efforts through programs and policies in the United States and globally by:
• Improving coordination among executive departments, agencies, and offices to maximize the Federal Government’s effectiveness in preventing and addressing technology-facilitated gender-based violence in the United States and globally, including by developing policy solutions to enhance accountability for those who perpetrate online harms; • Enhancing and expanding data collection and research across the Federal Government to measure the costs, prevalence, exposure to, and impact of technology-facilitated gender-based violence, including by studying the mental health effects of harassment and abuse perpetrated through social media, particularly affecting adolescents; • Increasing access to survivor-centered services, information, and support for victims, and increasing training and technical assistance for federal, state, tribal, local, and territorial governments, as well as for global organizations and entities in the fields of criminal justice, health and mental health services, education, and victim services; • Developing programs and policies to address the disproportionate impact of online harassment, abuse, and disinformation campaigns targeting women and LGBTQI+ individuals who are public and political figures, government and civic leaders, activists, and journalists in the United States and globally; • Examining existing Federal laws, regulations, and policies to evaluate the adequacy of the current legal framework to address technology-facilitated gender-based violence and provide recommendations for strengthening it; and • Identifying additional opportunities to improve efforts to prevent and address technology-facilitated gender-based violence in United States foreign policy and foreign assistance, including through the Global Partnership for Action on Gender-Based Online Harassment and Abuse.
“President Biden and Vice President Harris have long been committed to standing with survivors of gender-based violence wherever it occurs – including online,” administration officials said. “Through this task force, they will lead a strategic vision for countering online forms of violence, harassment and abuse.”