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Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Delivers Remarks at the Launch of the White House Task Force to Address Online Harassment and Abuse


Washington, DC
United States

Remarks as Delivered

Thank you, Madam Vice President, for convening this important meeting – and for telling me where to stand. [Laughter]

Thanks to Sloane Stephens, Matthew Herrick, Francesca Rossi, Mary Anne Franks, Carrie Goldberg, and Melissa Diaz for being with us today to share your experiences and your recommendations, which I know will inform our work in the days ahead.

Online criminal harassment and abuse are serious offenses. 

They are easy to commit, and often difficult to investigate.

And they inflict devastating and long-lasting harm on victims, who are disproportionately women, children and young adults, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Preventing and addressing online criminal harassment and abuse requires a whole-of-government approach. And that is why the Department of Justice is eager to take its place, take its role, to take part in the critical work of this Task Force.

Today, I would like to briefly outline three areas of focus for the Justice Department.

First, we are expanding our capacity to prevent online criminal harassment and abuse. 

Our Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) is using every resource at its disposal to combat cyberstalking and the misuse of technology by abusers, including through its Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center, which provides education and training at the local, regional, statewide, and national levels.

OVW has also funded important work that is underway to collect nationally representative data on cyberstalking in the United States. This data will help us assess the scope and the nature of these crimes, as well as determine survivors’ access to services and any unmet needs. We look forward to sharing the report and its findings, which will be published later this year.

In addition, thanks to the [2022] VAWA Reauthorization, the Department has begun work to establish and maintain a National Resource Center on Cybercrimes Against Individuals, which will provide resources, training, and technical assistance to prevent, enforce, and prosecute cybercrimes against individuals. Those cybercrimes include the use of technology to harass, threaten, stalk, and extort, as well as the nonconsensual distribution of intimate images.

The Department has also requested $10 million for grant programs authorized under VAWA for states, Indian Tribes, and local governments to step up their own efforts to prevent and respond to cybercrimes.

Second, we are expanding our capacity to prosecute online criminal harassment and abuse.

Our 94 United States Attorneys’ offices across the country – with the support of our Criminal Division – are working in partnership with law enforcement at all levels to successfully prosecute these cases.

Our OVW grant programs support specialized training for our law enforcement partners to identify, investigate, and bring cyberstalking cases and provide survivor-centered services.

And, in the months ahead, the Justice Department will implement important provisions from VAWA aimed at improving our enforcement efforts. 

First, the FBI Director will design and create within the Uniform Crime Reports a category for offenses that constitute cybercrimes against individuals. We will publish an annual report on this information, and all the information we gather, to further inform our enforcement efforts.

In addition, the Department will develop and implement a comprehensive strategy:

(1) to reduce the incidence of these cybercrimes;

(2) to coordinate investigations of these cybercrimes by federal law enforcement agencies;

(3) to increase the number of federal prosecutions of these cybercrimes; and

(4) to develop an evaluation process that measures rates of cybercrime victimization and prosecutorial rates among Tribal and culturally specific communities.

Finally, we are expanding our capacity to protect and support the survivors of these crimes.

The Office of Victims of Crime will award $3 million to victim services organizations through the Advancing the Use of Technology to Assist Victims of Crime program.

This program will support initiatives that use technology to increase access to services and information about victims’ rights; enhance service providers’ understanding of technology-facilitated gender-based violence; and strengthen the responsiveness of victim-service organizations supporting survivors of this type of violence.

The experience of online criminal harassment and abuse are often much more than a single incident or moment in time. 

Online criminal harassment and abuse can be a life-altering – and sometimes life-shattering – [experience] which endures long after the crime is over.

We are committed to relentlessly investigating these crimes, bringing to justice those who perpetrate them, and providing support for the survivors.

Thank you all for your attention to the task. We look forward to our shared work in the days ahead. It’s now my honor to introduce my fellow General, the Surgeon General of the United States.

Updated June 16, 2022