Vice President Kamala Harris announced the launch of a new White House task force on Thursday, aimed at addressing “online harassment and abuse” — and critics have raised concerns that in practice, it could be the Disinformation Governance Board under another name.
The task force, according to Thursday’s announcement, plans to address all online harassment and disinformation but will also focus specifically on the disproportionate online harassment faced by women and girls and people within the LGBTQ community.
The White House issued a press release detailing the task force’s creation and a number of its objectives going forward.
“Today, President Biden will sign a Presidential Memorandum establishing the White House Task Force to Address Online Harassment and Abuse, responding to the need for government leadership to address online harms, which disproportionately affect women, girls, people of color, and LGBTQI+ individuals,” the press release stated, going on to note that the task force would include Attorney General Merrick Garland and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, among others.
The task force’s primary goal will be to “produce recommendations for the Federal government, state governments, technology platforms, schools, and other public and private entities to prevent and address technology-facilitated gender-based violence, including a focus on the nexus between online misogyny and radicalization to violence.”
The task force was also to be instrumental in “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.”
But as one reporter noted during Thursday’s White House press briefing, several of the task force’s objectives appeared to be very similar to those of the recently-scrapped Disinformation Governance Board.
Wow – the Kamala Harris Online Policy Task Force sounds SUSPICIOUSLY like the DHS disinformation board..
Naturally @PressSec has no answers. pic.twitter.com/lykn03KHJs
— Matt Whitlock (@mattdizwhitlock) June 16, 2022
“On a background call last night we were told that it’s going to be different from the Disinformation Governance Board in that it’s going to focus on illegal conduct online,” the reporter began. “But the memo creating it was a little bit broader and it mentioned — I’m quoting from the document — ‘online harassment, abuse, and disinformation campaigns targeting women and LGBTQI+ individuals who are public and political figures.'”
“Can you clear up the disinformation part?” he asked.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre replied that she would “need to talk to her team,” and then notes that she was not party to the background call that the reporter had been on the night before.