In March of this year, Congresswoman Katherine Clark of Massachusetts started agitating very publicly for the Department of Justice to quit ignoring online threats against women, asking them specifically to devote more resources to investigating things like the threats and abuse heaped upon game developer Zoe Quinn and others by Gamergate fans.
Yesterday, Clark’s office announced that the House is formally supporting her request. A memo to the DOJ from the House appropriations committee includes the following instructions (bolds ours):
Enforcement of Federal cyber-stalking and threat crimes.—The Committee is aware of concerns regarding increased instances of severe harassment, stalking, and threats transmitted in interstate commerce in violation of Federal law. These targeted attacks against Internet users, particularly women, have resulted in the release of personal information, forced individuals to flee their homes, has had a chilling effect on free expression, and are limiting access to economic opportunity. The Committee strongly urges the Department to intensify its efforts to combat this destructive abuse and expects to see increased investigations and prosecutions of these crimes.
In a press release from her office, Clark is quoted as saying that online threats have an economic impact on women, as well as the more obvious threats to their safety.
“These threats cause fear for personal safety, create a chilling effect on free speech, and have a negative economic impact for women conducting business online,” she’s quoted as saying. “That is why we’re asking the Department of Justice to enforce laws that are already on the books, and make these cases a priority.”
After Clark first made her appeal to the Department of Justice in March, Twitter users responded in a calm and rational way, as is their wont:
Clearly, those are just insults, not outright threats. A spokesman for Clark’s office tells Jezebel that the Congresswoman knows “she knows she could get the attention of law enforcement should she ever feel truly threatened. Her efforts are all about making sure you don’t have to be a Congresswoman to get that kind of protection.”
Since first launching her effort in March, Clark’s office tell us that she’s met with developers Brianna Wu and Zoe Quinn, and worked with domestic violence organizations to convene a Congressional briefing on the issue.
Clark pictured in 2013. Photo via AP Images