Our founder Carrie Goldberg addressed the White House and participated in a roundtable for the launch of the Task Force to Address Online Harassment and Abuse.
At this inaugural meeting, key White House staff including Vice President Kamala Harris and cabinet members of the Task Force heard from survivors who have been impacted by online abuse and harassment and received recommendations from survivors as well as from experts, law enforcement, prosecutors, and victim advocates.
Two former clients of C.A. Goldberg, PLLC, Matthew Herrick and Francesca Rossi also shared testimonies and recommendations based on their experiences of horrendous and extreme violence due to the abuse of technology – which neither our criminal justice system nor legal system protected them from.
CARRIE GOLDBERG’S REMARKS: TASK FORCE TO ADDRESS ONLINE HARASSMENT AND ABUSE LAUNCH
White House, June 16, 2022
Members of this Task Force and Representatives of Federal Agencies:
My name is Carrie Goldberg. I’m an attorney in Brooklyn New York at C. A. Goldberg, PLLC. I’m here reporting from the trenches on behalf of my team of 12 at the office and our hundreds of clients LIVING AND DEAD—who are the victims of catastrophic injury; most often caused by the abuse of technology. We get orders of protections for clients being stalked, advocate for extreme abusers to be prosecuted, 8 of whom have been charged by DOJ for cyberstalking. And we bring major abusers to justice for gender-based violence from Harvey Weinstein for raping our clients to the NYC Dept of Ed for its pattern and practice of discriminating against girls of color who were sexually assaulted.
Today you heard from two of my clients who could have easily ended up dead because of the horrendous and extreme violence they experienced due to the abuse of technology and neither our criminal justice system or our legal system protected them enough. Representing Francesca Rossi and Matthew Herrick were highlights of my career. Other people at my firm, including myself, Norma Buster and Annie Seifullah have dedicated our lives to this work after being targeted. Survivors have a special expertise about how technology can be used for evil. We are so happy you want to hear from us.
I want to tell you a little bit about some of the cases we handle where families have been torn apart because of tragedies that happened online.
- We represent 2 families and have spoken to a dozen others whose children all bought sodium Nitrite off Amazon, a salt that if you mix with water and drink one sip, you die within an hour. Amazon advertises that users who buy SN should also buy other things to make the suicide a success — a personal scale, an antacid to prevent vomiting and this book — the Amazon edition of a suicide manual. When last spring we alerted Amazon that they were selling and delivering a product that had no noninstitutional use besides suicide and that they killed our client’s son and would kill other people if they didn’t control the product, Amazon’s lawyers said there was no duty to remove this product because they are immune from liability for anything used for suicide. Nine days after getting that letter, a 17 year old in Santa Cruz bought it and died. These companies are so arrogant they feel that leaving a trail of bodies is just the cost of doing business. Except there is no actual cost them.
- We’ve represented a dozen cases where k-12 students have been harassed with their naked pictures going viral around the school, in two cases, rape videos, where the victim has been told SHE should transfer schools so as not to create distraction.
- We represent the estate of Bianca Devins whose murderer radicalized online uploaded images of her decapitated body onto Instagram. And Instagram refused to remove the murderer’s profile for over a day while those pics went viral by people glorifying the murder. Two years after her death, her family still gets sent those photos of Bianca’s dead from people who put a bounty out for nudes of her. And Instagram won’t give the family control of her page. Instagram said it had no duty to stop the murder images from spreading on its site.
- Youtube said the same thing about the videos of our client Andy Parker’s daughter Alison being murdered circulating there
- Tindr said it had no duty to stop a serial rapist from using its dating app and who then murdered our client’s daughter on the first date
- Grindr told Matthew Herrick that it had no duty to stop his abuser from impersonating him to send over thousand men to his home to rape him.
- Meta says it has no responsibility to the hundreds of thousands of girls getting eating disorders from being addicted to their product and intentionally fed toxic images encouraging and exacerbating their condition through their feeds and recommendations
- Twitter says it has no responsibility to remove the posts when Francesca Rossi’s abuser was harassing her FROM prison WHILE she had an order of protection.
I’m here to tell you that these harms and abuses are predictable, avoidable, and intentionally being allowed to proliferate by tech companies operate in a country where they believe they have no duty or standard of care to the American people who use their products. Their only obligation is to shareholders – to convince us to buy something or keep scrolling.
There is a direct link between this lack of responsibility, lax content moderation, and dangerous algorithms that hook users in and deliver them to states of addiction and radicalization. As we saw in tech-amplified mass shotings in Uvalde, Buffalo, Christchurch, as well as murders of clients’ children Bianca Devins and Alison Parker, these killings are for the views. They are performative for social media. We have livestreaming social media products designed just for the broadcast and proliferation of abuse. And we have suicide products a click away for people who can’t take it
We are creating generations of radicalization, addiction, violence, and trauma from our social media products.
You all have been tasked by our administration to create a blueprint about how to solve Online Harms.
You’ll have missed the mark if your recommendations do not include the following:
- A division at DOJ that prosecutes online sex crimes targeting teens. This is a vulnerable population that falls through the cracks.But are the biggest consumers of technology, spend the most time there, are targeted by abusers, and have not developed coping mechanisms when they’re in trouble. Many of the teens we help are targeted by serial perpetrators.
- IC3 forms go into a hole, CCIPs is for adult victims, and Crimes against Children tell us they must focus their resources on the youngest child victims of sexual exploitation.
- We need to dedicate maximum resources to teen victims
- Prosecution of platforms that exist to do evil.
- One example is Omegle. It’’s entire product is to match strangers for masturbation video-streaming. They market to people 13 and older and have no controls to prevent matching children and adults which is exactly what happened to our then 11 yo client who they matched with a 37 yo. Who abused her for 3 years. Omegle says they’re immune from civil liability b/c of 230. But they are not immune from criminal liability. And they facilitate crimes against children all day every day
- Prosecute platforms that knowingly supply people with things to hurt themselves and others.
- Amazon is assisting interstate with suicide by supplying a product they know is encouraging self-inflicted violence.
- Armslist which sells guns illegally
- Consumer Product Safety Commission that approves the safety of online products for children. We have this for toys but not the online products where our kids spend hours per day
- We need ANYTHING that can start to establish a standard of care – a duty! — that these platforms have to their users.
- Research reports
- Surgeon General report that looks CLOSELY at online addiction/suicide/eating disorder
- Regulations about the need to comply with terms of services and to recognize orders of protection
- More FTC cases against tech companies for failing to apply their own terms of service
In this country, we don’t build roadways and then neglect them. We maintain them and enforce traffic laws to protect people from predictable harms. The same responsibility must exist in our digital world. When tech platforms profit off increased web traffic, they must invest in the protection of users against foreseeable online harms.