Congresswoman Katherine Clark targets online abuse with new bill

United States Representative Katherine Clark is hoping to offer more support for victims of online abuse by putting forward a new bill that would increase resources, as well as offer education to help law enforcement deal with the problem, reports the Washington Post.

Clark was inspired to do more for online abuse victims by her constituent Brianna Wu, a video game developer who was targeted with violent threats last September during the height of the Gamergate controversy. The severity of the threats caused Wu to leave her home, but after meeting the FBI about the case, Clark found that the issue was “just not one of their priorities.”

Clark’s bill, The Prioritizing Online Threats Enforcement Act, would see 10 new FBI agents dedicated to tackling cyberthreats – particularly against women – including the threat of rape, murder, dismemberment, stalking or the release of a victim’s personal information.

“While these threats may occur on the Internet, their impacts are far from virtual,” said Clark, speaking to The Washington Post. “They affect the bottom line for victims, who pay a real cost not just emotionally but also financially – in fees to attorneys and private investigators, or to services to scrub personally identifying information from the Web. I don’t think that women, who are the primary targets of this kind of abuse, should have to do this alone.”

As well as adding more support within government, Clark is speaking to social networks like Facebook and Twitter to see how abuse can be stamped out earlier online.

The bill will be seen as a positive step by those campaigning for harsher punishments to be given to online abusers, but a Supreme Court ruling last week stated that clear intent must be detected before a suspect can be convicted for making threats online.

Photo: Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

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