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SXSW: Rep. Katherine Clark Wants $20M to Fight Online Harassment

US Representative Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) has announced the Cybercrime Enforcement Training Assistance Act, which would establish a $20 million annual federal grant for state and local law enforcement agencies to boost cybercrime-fighting capabilities.

The federal bill would ramp up training for police departments, prosecutors and emergency dispatchers, and create a national resource center that hosts a cybercrime-specific library. The funds would also be used for technology upgrades, and to aid in extradition of cyber-criminals between states.

She announced the effort at the SXSW conference and music festival in Austin, Texas over the weekend.

The initiative would have a particular focus on cyber-crimes that disproportionately target vulnerable groups like women, people of color, and the LGBT community, especially in cases of online threats and harassment. She also noted the many anecdotal reports she has received characterizing the law enforcement response to these crimes as generally dismissive.

She also cited her own experience as an advocate for victims of the hate speech initiative known as Gamergate. Last year, Clark published a letter to the House Appropriations Committee, asking it to call on the Justice Department to crack down on internet harassment, including the threats of rape, murder, mass shooting and bomb threats that have been leveled against women (and some men) in the video game community. This arose from a situation affecting one of her constituents, Boston-based game developer Brianna Wu, was the target of a sustained hate campaign.

"The FBI ... clearly told us this was not a priority for them and that was a sentiment we have found to be a theme,” she told The Verge. So, the proposed training funds would help in "build[ing] the capacity of local law enforcement to understand the impact of these crimes and how to best investigate them."

Photo © Alfie Photography/Shutterstock.com

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