Me­la­nia Trump

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - Ses­sion to be first ma­jor push in her ef­fort to pro­mote safety on­line BY TONY ROMM tony.romm@wash­ More at wash­ing­ton­ tech­nol­ogy

will meet with Face­book, Twit­ter and other tech gi­ants to dis­cuss cy­ber­bul­ly­ing.

First lady Me­la­nia Trump plans to con­vene tech gi­ants in­clud­ing Ama­zon, Face­book, Google, Twit­ter and Snap next week to dis­cuss ways to com­bat on­line ha­rass­ment and pro­mote In­ter­net safety, ac­cord­ing to four peo­ple fa­mil­iar with her ef­forts.

The meet­ing at the White House, slated for Tues­day, marks the first ma­jor pol­icy push in the first lady’s long-ago-an­nounced cam­paign to com­bat cy­ber­bul­ly­ing. At the gath­er­ing, Trump plans to ask top pol­icy ex­ec­u­tives from tech gi­ants to de­tail how they’ve sought to ad­dress dig­i­tal ills such as the rise of on­line trolls and the spread of ma­li­cious con­tent, ac­cord­ing to the peo­ple, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause they were not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss her ef­forts on the record. (Jef­frey P. Be­zos, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Ama­, owns The Washington Post.)

The peo­ple said they don’t ex­pect the first lady to un­veil any spe­cific pol­icy pro­pos­als to com­bat cy­ber­bul­ly­ing — a term her team has sought to avoid, in­stead opt­ing to fo­cus on the need for kind­ness on­line.

Asked about the up­com­ing event, a spokes­woman for Trump said in a state­ment that the first lady had “sim­ply asked for a meet­ing to dis­cuss one of the many things that im­pacts chil­dren.” The spokes­woman de­clined to pro­vide ad­di­tional de­tails.

In re­cent months, com­pa­nies such as Face­book, Google and Twit­ter have faced crit­i­cism for al­low­ing the spread of hate, ha­rass­ment, con­spir­acy the­o­ries and other toxic con­tent on their plat­forms. Af­ter the mass shoot­ing last month at a high school in Park­land, Fla., for ex­am­ple, videos at­tack­ing the vic­tims pro­lif­er­ated wildly on YouTube, aided by al­go­rithms that sur­face sim­i­lar videos on a loop.

Oth­ers fault Pres­i­dent Trump for con­tribut­ing to the lack of ci­vil­ity on­line, par­tic­u­larly through his tweets at­tack­ing op­po­nents. Some of his most pop­u­lar tweets in 2017 — gar­ner­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of replies, likes or retweets among his roughly 49 mil­lion fol­low­ers — in­volved rhetor­i­cal broad­sides aimed at North Korea and CNN.

Me­la­nia Trump first pledged to high­light and fight cy­ber­bul­ly­ing in Novem­ber 2016, days be­fore her hus­band won the White House. At the time, she lamented that “our cul­ture has got­ten too mean and too rough, es­pe­cially to chil­dren and to teenagers.”

Fol­low­ing the in­au­gu­ra­tion, how­ever, the first lady has ad­dressed cy­ber­bul­ly­ing only in a few pub­lic set­tings. Those have in­cluded a high-pro­file speech at the United Na­tions in Septem­ber, in which she em­pha­sized the need to “teach each child the val­ues of em­pa­thy and com­mu­ni­ca­tion that are at the core of kind­ness, mind­ful­ness, in­tegrity and lead­er­ship, which can only be taught by ex­am­ple.”

More re­cently, Trump ap­peared to be tele­graph­ing a pol­icy push to come: She hired new aides, in­clud­ing a di­rec­tor of pol­icy, in Jan­uary. The first lady pub­licly re­turned to the is­sue of cy­ber­bul­ly­ing last month in the wake of the Park­land shoot­ing.

Not long af­ter that at­tack, stu­dent Lau­ren Hogg tweeted Trump to express frus­tra­tion that her step­son, Don­ald Trump Jr., had liked tweets sug­gest­ing that sur­vivors had been coached to speak to the me­dia and cover for the FBI. Days later, dur­ing a speech prais­ing the stu­dents of Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School, Trump spoke about the need for more ci­vil­ity on­line and the im­por­tance of “pos­i­tive habits with so­cial me­dia and tech­nol­ogy.”

For its part, Sil­i­con Val­ley has strug­gled to com­bat abuse and ha­rass­ment on­line. In a study from the Pew Re­search Cen­ter last year, for ex­am­ple, 41 per­cent of Amer­i­cans said they had per­son­ally ex­pe­ri­enced some form of ha­rass­ment on the Web — for myr­iad rea­sons in­clud­ing their gen­der, eth­nic­ity or phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance.

Along with rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Ama­zon, Face­book, Google, Snap and Twit­ter, top aides from Mi­crosoft and the In­ter­net As­so­ci­a­tion, a lob­by­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion for Sil­i­con Val­ley, as well as con­sumer groups, will be at the first lady’s meet­ing, the peo­ple said. Each of these com­pa­nies ei­ther did not re­spond to emails seek­ing com­ment or de­clined to com­ment Tues­day.


Me­la­nia Trump first pledged to high­light and fight cy­ber­bul­ly­ing in Novem­ber 2016. The first lady is not ex­pected to an­nounce spe­cific pol­icy pro­pos­als at the meet­ing, set for Tues­day, sources said.

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