VP Harris launches task force on online harassment after shootings

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris inaugurated a task force on Thursday to curb online harassment, fulfilling one of the Biden campaign's promises in the wake of a mass shooting that highlights a link between online abuse and violence.

The group is tasked with producing within six months a blueprint detailing actions to address the problem, including more support for victims, prevention and greater accountability for aggressors and platforms hosting them.

"This affects all of us if it affects any one of us," Harris said in launching the task force. "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 group is co-chaired by the White House Gender Policy Council and National Security Council, according to senior administration officials who previewed the announcement in a call on Wednesday evening.

The creation of the task force comes in the wake of a mass shootings in Texas, where the gunman allegedly posted violent online content before carrying out the bloody rampage.

According to reports from CNN, the Washington Post and others, Salvador Ramos, who shot and killed 19 children and two adults in an elementary school in Uvalde, threatened to rape girls and shoot up schools on social media app Yubo before the attack.

"It's imperative that we commit to better understanding and addressing the nexus between online misogyny and radicalization to violence," a senior administration official said, previewing the announcement in a Wednesday evening call.

One in three women under the age of 35 and over half of LGBT people in the United States report experiencing sexual harassment and stalking online, according to the White House.

Harris was joined on Thursday by Attorney General Merrick Garland, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and tennis star Sloane Stephens, who publicized a torrent of angry messages she received on social media, including racist and sexist abuse, following her loss at the U.S. Open.

(Reporting by Alexandra Alper; Editing by William Mallard and Mark Porter)

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