AOC gets daily death threats. Who is going to act on them?

In this piece about the threats that AOC gets, she tweets about the “anonymous” threats that they get.

So, the Capitol Police are building files. Great. What happens next? We often hear about how the Secret Service goes and has a “talk” with people who make threats to the President or other high-ranking politicians. Are AOC and IIhar Omar getting help from the Secret Service or FBI? If so, I’d like to read about people who have been arrested, tried and convicted. People need to read about those stories.

For a long time I’ve been thinking about how poorly we deal with on-line threats. Especially to women and especially from men with guns.

I think an organization needs to step in to help people (especially women) who get threatened online. There are groups that defend speech, but as I have pointed out again and again, threatening speech is not protected speech.

I know there are groups that take on this task. Like American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence, Battered Women’s Justice Project (BWJP), The Center for Survivor Agency and Justice  Some groups probably already help their members. But perhaps there needs to be a coalition of groups to work on this from multiple angles.
Does there need to be a new group? If I were to put this together I would include

  • Women who have gone through this entire process. Like those targeted in the Gamergate case. They are crucial for this. I’ve learned from my friends in the Gun Violence Prevention movement, “Listen to Survivors!”
  • Experts in computer tracking, surveillance and security. Most people have no idea how much information they are
  • Experts on free speech. They can identify what is protected, what is hyperbole and what is a true threat.  They understand the terms and conditions and acceptable use polices of social media platforms and local and state laws that can put the threat into context
  • Experts in domestic violence cases. What are the best ways to deal with death threats when they are local? What about threats from a distance? Just because the threat isn’t local, doesn’t mean it should be dismissed. What is the best way to deal with remote threats?
  • Private investigators, people who know how to check up and identify people beyond what computer people learn online.
  • Law enforcement from multiple states, since online threats can come from anywhere and local laws vary
  • Former prosecutors. What has worked in both criminal cases and civil cases in various states?
  • Lawyers. lawyers, lawyers
    Personal injury lawyers
    for civil suits.
    Corporate HR lawyers
    who understand how a corporate brand can be damaged when employees are caught making death threats
    First Amendment lawyers they know what is protected and what isn’t, and can prepare for the typical excuses
  • Social media and media experts Groups like the NRA and Fox News are the ones suggesting people who should be targeted. Those organizations need to be called out and then, when their members are caught, arrested and punished, they need to own their actions in starting this and be monitored so they stop doing this. If they don’t, they need to be held accountable.
  • Rich backers for seed money (I’m thinking George Soros, since he is already accused of funding everything, and he already prepared to deal with people who hate him.)

Groups that I think could be involved include:
Planned Parenthood,
since they deal with threats every day and have a smart social media team
Everytown For Gun Safety, because threats often come from men with guns, they can address the use of Extreme Risk Protection Laws in states where they exists and then the need for them where they don’t.
Southern Poverty Law Center, for their understanding of where the hate comes from. And importantly, they have a history of legal cases that defund the people and groups who have spread hate speech.

One of the reasons that I focus on civil cases is that I want cases that would be MONEY MAKERS for lawyers. Yes, that’s right. I think that if the threat comes from someone who has the assets, there should be financial consequence to that person. Then, if the case is won, the individual can donate some of the money to the organization that provided the help. This can fund cases of threats from people who don’t have assets.

Goals of the group:

Identify the people who are making the threats (if they are anonymous)

Determine the threat level to see what lines it does or does not cross.

Develop methods and strategies to address the case.

The Steps:

Deescalate. Give the perpetrator a chance to walk away. This is good for two reasons. One, it gives them a second chance and an opportunity to clarify.  If they don’t, and state their intent to cause harm, this provides additional leverage if the case comes to court as a criminal case. Establishing intent is an important because of Elonis V. Facebook) If you DON’T want to go to court, but have established intent enough for a criminal case, it strengths a civil case and other actions.

Men today seem to keep threatening and “doubling down” because they think it makes them look like tough guys. If that happens, then it’s time to:
Pursue actions against the perpetrator, and always let the person threatened decide next steps based on what is best for them. 
However much I want to go into prosecutor mode, I have to remember to put the survivor and their needs first. 

Not everyone wants to pursue criminal actions, sometimes alerting the perpetrator that you know who they are and will reveal more if they don’t stop is enough.
This step, showing the perpetrator that you have the resources and a plan to stand up to them might be enough. But as I know, bullies don’t always back down so….

Prepare to take evidence of their threatening actions to their employers if necessary. (This is where the HR corporate lawyers advice comes in. Most corporations have codes of conduct that, while not rising to the level of a criminal offense, would be a violation of a corporate policy)

Look to ways to condemn these actions from a group and in a manner that they care about.
Who are the sources of societal respect they crave? Do they consider themselves a Christian? Can the head of the Church be alerted?

Are there women in their lives, mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters etc. that would be appalled by their threats?
Are they a proud member of a school, university, professional society, sports team, community group?

In the research on bullies it shows that when people who are connected to the bully, but aren’t bullies themselves, band together to tell the bully to knock it off, it often has a bigger impact that outsiders coming in. This group of associates who the bully craves approval from is not the same as fellow bullies. They are the ones who can send a message about unacceptable behavior that can influence others who might not speak up.

If there are no moderating entities (or entities that encourage and condone this) go for the wallet on those who have money:

In the era of Trump, it is necessary to send a message to nasty rich people who threaten others. (see Gretchen Carlson vs. Roger Ailes for $20 million. Bill O’Reilly vs 6 women for $45 million)

On one hand winning sexual harassment cases puts the fear of financial ruin into people who do it, but also, it puts the dollar signs in the eyes of the people who wouldn’t take on the case if there wasn’t a financial reward at the end of the case. Some people only get serious and take action if there is a financial penalty or reward. This is something even market based libertarians can understand.

Death threats are deplorable and when they rise to the level of a criminal act that needs to be addressed as such. The people who push threats in a broader way are skirting the law with their vague speech. What they are saying is obvious to most reasonable people, but because of a lack of resources and a method to address it, the threateners keep getting away with it. Those people have been given a chance over and over again to stop with threatening speech yet they continue. Threatening speech is not protected speech and when people cross the line, there need to be consequences.

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