December 1, 2020

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Here’s how President-elect Biden plans to tackle online abuse

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President-elect Joe Biden is no stranger to the problems plaguing social media. Twice during his campaign, he criticized Facebook for not doing do more to fight misinformation.

After taking office in January, Biden plans to tackle another big online crisis: harassment and abuse. He says he’ll create a task force focusing on the connection between online threats and stalking, and real-world consequences like extremism and violence.

The task force is expected to be filled by state and federal leaders, law enforcement, policy advocates, and technology experts. The goal is to come up with recommendations for how governments, social media companies, schools, and other entities can address the problem. 

“Nearly half of all Internet users report experiences of harassment or abuse,” a Biden campaign statement says. “The Biden Administration will shine a light on the online harassment, stalking, and abuse that now is a too-frequent reality for Americans, particularly for young people and women.”

In recent months, members of both political parties—for different reasons—have slammed Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for how they police content on their sites. In response, regulators are reviewing whether to change or repeal a law called Section 230 that protects companies from liability for what their users post. 

Biden wants the task force to recommend a system that companies can use to publicly report harassment and the steps they took to stop it, and to come up with best practices for fixing the problem.

Twitter declined to comment to Fortune the new task force. Instead, it referred to its own policies against harassment and hate, which critics say are insufficiently enforced.

Most recently, Twitter updated its policies to limit or prevent the spread of links that promote violence or include threats. It also expanded its rules against hateful conduct to include language that dehumanizes people based on their religion, age, disability or disease. And its testing ways to warn users that they may be posting hateful content before they post. 

Facebook did not respond to a request for comment. But it, too, has recently cracked on what it considers unacceptable speech. Last month, for example, it created a new rule banning users from denying the Holocaust, but they can still deny genocides elsewhere.

In addition to creating a task force, Biden plans to fund training for law enforcement about combating online abuse. He also supports state and federal legislation that would give victims of revenge porn the ability to sue. For example, Biden supports legislation, known as the SHIELD Act, co-sponsored last year in the Senate by now Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, that criminalizes revenge porn.

More must-read tech coverage from Fortune:

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  • California just passed tougher privacy rules that may reverberate nationwide
  • The world’s largest surveillance system is growing—and so is the backlash
  • What’s expected at Apple’s just announced virtual event on Nov. 10
  • Planes continue to fly into a GPS dark hole over the Mediterranean, puzzling experts

Danielle Abril


2020-11-09 19:00:00


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