White House Initiative to Combat Online Hate Gains Support in Florida, but Government Skeptical – NBC 6 South Florida

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The Stonewall Pride Parade in South Florida last weekend came with the watchful eyes of police on alert for anyone to do harm after LGBTQ groups were targeted elsewhere.

Now the White House is tasked with finding specific ways to keep online hate from turning into real violence, and it wants Florida to join in as well.

The marching band at Wilton Manors over the holiday long weekend was accompanied by a heavy police presence – a precaution after 31 people in riot gear heading to a Pride event were arrested in Idaho.

“We have asked Wilton Manors Police and Fort Lauderdale Police to ensure no malignancy occurs during Pride,” said Tony Lima, who runs the South Florida SunServe Center, where members of our lesbian, gay and transgender community obtain a multitude of services. .

Tony Lima directs the South Florida SunServe Center

Lima is all behind the White House’s recently announced effort for a task force to develop ways at the federal, state and local levels to stop hate from spreading online — hate that can have deadly results.

Police say the 18-year-old who killed 10 people at a Buffalo grocery store posted about an attack.

“All of this organization, all of this ignorance starts at the online level, and that’s why it needs to be watched,” Lima said. “It’s important for us to be able to have rules, guidelines and even consequences for those who abuse the online space to hurt people.”

In May 2021, NBC 6 showed what targeted hate can do when Broward middle school student Chad Sanford was tripped and pushed to the ground at school. The violence was captured on a cell phone.

“They were kicking me, shoving me and spitting at me,” Sanford said at the time. “He said he was going to make me drop homosexuality.”

Lima says strengthening online surveillance is crucial.

“Being online is basically a lifeline for our LGBTQ youth,” Lima said.

The task force will look for ways to locate online threats like those from the Parkland and Uvalde shooters that have flown under the radar.

“Unfortunately, none of these social media platforms have been monitored,” Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said on Zoom. “Being bullied online, whether it’s about your looks or your weight, there has been an increase in suicide rates among young girls and boys.”

Fried believes Florida should work alongside the task force to protect our residents, especially children.

Nikki Fried, Florida Agriculture Commissioner

“To make sure there’s a safe space for someone to report bullying, to make sure there’s a way to track down who those bullies are, and certainly if they’re children so they can contact their parents,” she said.

The governor’s office on Monday did not specifically address the White House initiative, but told NBC 6 in a statement, “Florida has anti-harassment laws, including online harassment and other crimes mentioned in the memo. In Florida, criminals will be subject to the penalties of the law. No one should experience harassment, regardless of demographic. Additionally, school safety is a top priority in Florida, and state and local authorities are responding to threats announced online and taking preventative action. The state does not need the White House to issue memoranda to enforce the law. Of course, the White House may have its own motivations for this effort aside from harassment. If the White House intends to use it as a new way to control or chill online speech that is not harassment (e.g., political disagreement), then Florida will oppose that effort. Unfortunately, we have seen such motives from the White House very recently in the Homeland Security Disinformation Governance Council, poorly executed and ultimately disbanded.

The task force will also focus on protecting women from abuse that begins online. Schools and tech companies are also being asked to help shape a comprehensive plan that Florida, other states, and the nation can put in place to identify and stop danger on a keypad or cellphone. , and before he goes elsewhere.

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