The Federal Bureau of Investigation isn’t doing its job when it comes to handling online threats — that’s how Congresswoman Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) feels.
The U.S. representative issued a letter to the House Appropriations Committee that asks that the government prioritize a response to cyberattacks that target women (as Jezebel first reported). Clark notes that several laws already exist to prosecute violent threats made online, but enforcement isn’t keeping up. She claims that federal prosecutors only went after 10 cases out of the approximately 2.5 million instances of online stalking that happened in the U.S. from 2010 through 2013. This issue is of particular interest in the wake of Gamergate, which is a group that has repeatedly targeted outspoken women in the game sector while claiming to be about ethics in journalism.
“We have to stop seeing this as just an Internet issue,” Clark said in a statement. “When women are targeted with violent threats online, they are not only forced to fear for their safety but their ability to fully participate in our economy is jeopardized. We have to examine how well we’re enforcing existing protections and work to keep the internet open for everyone.”
In her letter, Clark specifically calls out Gamergate for its ongoing “intimidation campaign.” She notes that the threats from this group have “not only impacted these women’s lives and their ability to work but they have the potential to silence female voices and deter young women from entering their chosen profession.”
Clark goes on to say that while the federal government isn’t responsible for “policing the Internet,” it does have an obligation to protect people who are threatened with rape and murder under current laws.
The congresswoman took interest in this issue when she learned that game developer Brianna Wu, who is often the target of Gamergate attacks, is one of her constituents. Clark reached out to Wu and then to the FBI to find out how they were dealing with the threats she has received. The representative was disappointed to learn that the law-enforcement agency wasn’t really doing anything at all.
That’s when she decided to do something about it herself.
“It’s hard to over-stress just how supportive Clark’s office has been to me, and how concerned they’ve been about the problem,” Wu said in an interview with Jezebel. “Law enforcement is taking this seriously thanks to her. It really speaks to the need to get women elected.”