Biden pursues actions against online harassment and LGBTQ issues

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On Thursday, the White House plans to convene a task force to combat online harassment and abuse, signaling an effort to address an issue that has grown more threatening as sometimes vitriolic social media posts have become a means central for young people in particular to communicate.

The move comes a day after President Biden signed an executive order to protect LGBTQ Americans, which among other things aims to prevent “conversion therapy” — a widely discredited practice of seeking to change sexual or gender identity. from someone – by directing the Health and Human Services Department to clarify that programs receiving federal funds cannot offer such programs.

Taken together, these measures reflect an effort by Biden to use his executive authority to tackle volatile social issues, including in areas where Congress is unlikely to act, and fight more directly. cultural conservatives who have spent months trying to use these issues to rally their base and pass a series of state laws that the White House considers discriminatory. As the midterm elections approach and Biden struggles to pass legislation through Congress, some activists have pushed him to tackle more issues through unilateral presidential actions.

Biden’s Wednesday order was signed at a celebratory Pride Month reception held in the East Room, where the President railed against some of the state’s laws. “No one knows better than the people in this room [that] we still have a lot of work to do,” he said, noting “the ultra-MAGA agenda, attacking families and our freedoms.”

He noted the arrest of more than two dozen members of a white supremacist group who were near a pride event in northern Idaho over the weekend. “They’re disgusting,” Biden said of the attacks on LGBTQ people. “And they have to stop.”

Biden’s moves this week are, in part, the latest in a dispute over education, as Republicans seek to restrict schools’ ability to teach certain issues related to race and sexual orientation on behalf of children. “parents’ rights” and Democrats argue the GOP seeks to trample on the rights of minority groups.

“We will ensure that parents can send their children to school to receive education, not indoctrination,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (right) said recently as he signed the rights bill in education, which limits discussion of sexual orientation and has earned condemnation from LGBTQ activists, who call it the “don’t say gay” law.

Still, Biden’s ability to effect change through executive orders is limited. The Online Harassment Task Force, which disproportionately targets women and LGBTQ people, will be tasked with making proposals within the next six months.

The first meeting of the working group, which Vice President Harris will facilitate and will also include Attorney General Merrick Garland, initiate a process to develop recommendations for governments, technology platforms, schools and other public and private entities.

“The President made this commitment because in the United States, one in three women under the age of 35 say they have been sexually harassed online and more than half of LGBTQI-plus people report being the target of serious online abuse. “said a senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of the announcement.

Efforts to regulate online conduct have often been criticized as violations of free speech. Administration officials appeared eager to avoid earlier problems with the Disinformation Governance Council, an ill-fated effort by the Department of Homeland Security to combat disinformation that has been criticized, particularly by conservatives, as an attempt to patrol the discourse.

“We are particularly focused on online activities that are unlawful conduct, such as cyberstalking or non-consensual distribution of intimate images or targeted harassment,” the administration official said.

“We are very mindful of First Amendment issues,” the official added. “But you know, violent and threatening speech is not protected by the First Amendment. So while we’re going to carefully navigate these issues, we’re also going to stay focused on the non-verbal aspect.

In Wednesday’s executive order, Biden directed multiple government departments, including state and treasury, to develop plans to combat conversion therapy around the world, in part by ensuring that U.S. aid does not fund the practice.

In some ways, the White House seeks to contrast former President Donald Trump and the Republican Party, which Democrats describe as intolerant of a range of different groups.

Among Biden’s initiatives this week is a push to strengthen suicide prevention programs and launch a campaign to protect vulnerable populations such as youth in foster care and the homeless. He asked HHS to release examples of policies that states could use if they seek to expand access to health care.

He also called on the Education Department to address the effects of new state laws aimed at changing school curricula, including limiting discussion of issues related to race or sexual orientation.

At Wednesday’s Pride Month event at the White House, Biden was introduced by Javier Gomez, an 18-year-old high school student from Florida who helped organize walkouts to protest the state’s new law restricting discussions in schools about sexual orientation and gender identity.

“When you’re president and they say, ‘Joe Biden is in the waiting room,'” Biden told Gomez after his well-received introduction, “promise me you won’t say, ‘Joe who? ” ”


Washington

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