Soon after Joe Biden announced last year that he would pick a woman as his running mate, Democratic congresswoman Jackie Speier began warning Facebook executives: Female politicians receive the most vile online attacks, and the company’s filters were failing to stop them.
“We showed them 20 examples that were disgusting — and they were still up!” said Speier, of Hillsborough, whose meetings included one with Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. Facebook’s response gave her little comfort. “Keep sending us these horrific examples,” she said executives told her, “and we’ll take them down.”
Speier’s concerns that the first female vice president would attract outsized assaults and venomous lies from social media’s ugliest players have now been validated. Research shows that Kamala Harris may be the most targeted American politician on the internet, one who checks every box for the haters of the fever swamps: She’s a woman, she’s a person of color and she holds power.
It’s not just the amount but the type of harassment that makes the Harris slurs stand out. President Biden gets his share of smears, but they tend to focus on his age, often repeating former President Trump’s “Sleepy Joe” moniker; a few call him creepy or worse. Those directed at Harris, however, tend to reference sex, violence or misogynistic accusations that she does not deserve her position.
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