The White House announced Thursday that Vice President Kamala Harris will lead a newly established “disinformation” task force.
This is totally not the same thing as the failed disinformation board, according to Biden administration officials.
The White House Task Force to Address Online Harassment and Abuse will combat disinformation and abuse targeting marginalized groups, such as women and journalists, President Biden said Thursday in a memo to federal agencies.
JUST IN: @VP launches online harassment task force: "To all the other survivors who are here today — you motivate us, you inspire us, and you are the voice of so many people who are in this room because of the voice that you express around these issues." https://t.co/oMe3sGDF1l pic.twitter.com/G5gqXocFYx
— Forbes (@Forbes) June 16, 2022
“In the United States and around the world, women and LGBTQI+ political leaders, public figures, activists, and journalists are especially targeted by sexualized forms of online harassment and abuse, undermining their ability to exercise their human rights and participate in democracy, governance and civic life,” the president said.
- Among other goals, the task force plans to develop policy solutions “to enhance accountability for those who perpetrate online harms,” establish programs to fight disinformation campaigns, expand federal data collection efforts with the aim of studying the mental health impact of social media abuse and evaluate whether existing federal law adequately addresses “technology-facilitated gender-based violence.”
- During a briefing Thursday about the launch of the task force, Harris linked recent mass shootings to “expressions of online hate and abuse.”
- “This task force, then, will tackle a threat that has been far too real for far too many people for far too long,” she said. “And the recommendations of this group and the extended group of experts and those who have been advocates in this space for so long — the collective work — will help modernize the federal government’s response to violence against women and people of all genders.”
In a separate White House press briefing Thursday, one reporter questioned how the task force was “going to be different” from the short-lived Disinformation Governance Board in the Department of Homeland Security.
- The reporter said he and his colleagues were told on a background call the previous night that the task force, unlike its predecessor, will focus only on “illegal conduct online,” but he noted that the president’s memo was “a little bit broader.”
- Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre could not explain the apparent contradiction.
Last month, the White House “paused” its controversial plans to create the Disinformation Governance Board, prompting incoming executive director Nina Jankowicz to resign.
- Conservatives and free speech advocates objected to the federal government claiming the power to determine what counts as “disinformation,” fearing it would be used as yet another way for liberals to censor dissident views online.
- “So, I think quite honestly, for the good of the rest of the department that now is a good time to abandon this ludicrous and much-maligned idea,” Sen. Shelley Capito, R-W.Va., told HHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas during a Senate Homeland Security committee hearing in May. “When you say that we have operational control of the border is that definitionally disinformation? Because from a lot of our perspectives we don’t believe that is true. So, it seems subjective and undefined what disinformation is.”
- Jankowicz’s history of spreading false and misleading information was also a red flag for critics of the board.
“We’re going to need another Nina down the road,” an anonymous DHS staffer told The Washington Post in May, lamenting Jankowicz’s resignation.