*Female politicians receive the most hate online, and Vice President Kamala Harris is said to receive the vilest online attacks of them all.
“We showed them 20 examples that were disgusting — and they were still up!” said U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, who has been warning Facebook executives about the online haters. Some of her meetings included one with Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, Detroit News reports. Facebook’s response, per Speier, was “Keep sending us these horrific examples,” she said executives told her, “and we’ll take them down.”
Harris appears to be the most targeted American politician online because she is a woman and person of color who holds power.
“Abuse directed at women is highly personalized, often attacking them based on their appearance and denigrating their intelligence,” said Cecile Guerin, a researcher in London at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue.
Older white women are reportedly less likely to receive gender-based attacks compared to younger women or women of color, according to researchers. After Joe Biden announced Harris as his VP running mate, she has been relentlessly mocked via racist and sexist images and commentary online.
Nathan Barankin, Harris’ former Senate chief of staff, said the abuse isn’t new.
“I am unaware of any job she has ever had in which there were not a steady stream of very real and viable threats to her safety,” he said. “And those are physical, digital, email and otherwise.”
He continued, “This is a person who started out her career prosecuting murders and rape,” Barankin said of Harris, who began as a line prosecutor in Oakland. “She knows what evil is out there.”
A Facebook spokeswoman said the platform allows users to be more critical of public officials because “we want to allow discourse, which can sometimes include critical commentary of public figures.” Yet they “must comply with our community standards, and we will remove content about public figures that violates other policies.”
“We have seen sustained levels of abuse, and that stays quite stable despite all the studies that have highlighted the problem,” said Guerin.
Speier has warned Twitter and Facebook executives of further regulation if they fail to remedy the threatening harassment, according to the report.