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US VP Kamala Harris launches task force to target online harassment following mass shootings

Adam Schultz (White House) / Wikimedia Commons

US Vice President Kamala Harris launched a task force this week that would tackle online harassment. The task force would make good on a campaign promise by President Joe Biden following the recent mass shootings that proved the link between online harassment and violence.

Harris inaugurated the task force Thursday. The group is given six months to draft a plan that outlines the actions to address the issue, including additional support for victims, prevention, and better accountability for aggressors and the platforms that host the aggressors.

Senior administration officials said the group would be co-chaired by the White House Gender Policy Council and the National Security Council. Attorney General Merrick Garland, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, and tennis player Sloane Stephens were present at the inaugural event.

“This affects all of us if it’ll affect one of us,” said Harris in her remarks during the task force’s inauguration. “We, therefore, all of us, have a responsibility to stand together, to support those who have gone through this but to also recognize they shouldn’t have to be alone fighting on this issue.”

The formation of the task force follows the horrific mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where the gunman, Salvador Ramos, reportedly posted violent content online before carrying out the massacre. 19 children and two adults were killed in an elementary school.

Prior to the shooting, Ramos apparently threatened to rape girls and shoot up schools in his posts on the social media platform Yubo.

“It’s imperative that we commit to better understanding and addressing the nexus between online misogyny and radicalization to violence,” said a senior administration official.

Harris also announced Thursday the expansion of a federal program that provides healthcare coverage for low-income women for up to one year after giving birth. Three more states were given access to the program: Maine, Minnesota, and New Mexico, as well as Washington DC.

The program provides health benefits such as pelvic exams, vaccinations, and screenings for qualified families through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

The Biden administration estimated that around 250,000 parents are qualified to be part of the program. Nine more states have applied to take part in the effort.

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