South Florida’s Stonewall Pride Parade this past weekend came with the watchful eyes of police who were on alert for anyone out to do harm after LGBTQ groups were targeted elsewhere.
Now, the White House is forming a task to come up with specific ways to prevent hate online from turning into actual violence, and it wants Florida to get on board, too.
The fanfare in Wilton Manors on the long holiday weekend came with a heavy police presence — a precaution after 31 people in riot gear heading to a pride event were arrested in Idaho.
“We had the Wilton Manors Police and the Fort Lauderdale Police making sure that nothing of a malignancy was happening during pride,” said Tony Lima, who heads South Florida’s SunServe Center where members of our lesbian, gay and transgender community obtain a host of services.
Lima is all behind the recently announced White House effort to have a task force develop ways at the federal, state, and local level to stop hate from spreading online — hate that can have deadly results.
Police say the 18-year-old who killed 10 people at a Buffalo grocery store had been posting about an attack.
“All of this organizing, all of this ignorance starts at the online level, and that’s why it has to be policed," Lima said. "It’s important for us to be able to have rules, guidelines, and even consequences for those that abuse the online space to do harm to people. “
Back in May 2021, NBC 6 showed what target hate can do when Broward middle school student Chad Sanford was tripped and pushed to the ground at school. The violence was captured on a cellphone.
“They were kicking, shoving, and spitting on me,” Sanford said at the time. “He said he was going to knock the gayness out of me.”
Lima says beefing up online monitoring is crucial.
“Being online is basically a lifeline for our LGBTQ youth,” Lima said.
The task force will look for ways to locate online threats like those made by the Parkland and Uvalde shooters that went under the radar.
“Unfortunately, there has been no oversight of any of these social media platforms,” Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said over Zoom. “Being bullied online, whether it’s about how you look, or your weight — there’s been an increase of young girls and young boys increasing on suicide rates."
Fried believes Florida should work alongside the task force to protect our residents, especially children.
“Making sure there is a safe space for somebody to report bullying, to make sure that there is a way to track down who those bullies are, and certainly if they are children to be able to contact their parents," she said.
On Monday, the governor’s office did not specifically address the White House initiative but did tell NBC 6 in a statement, “Florida has laws against harassment, including online harassment and other crimes mentioned in the memo. In Florida, criminals will be subject to the penalties of the law. No one should have to suffer harassment, regardless of demographic. Additionally, school safety is a top priority in Florida, and state and local authorities do respond to threats advertised online and take preventative action. The state does not need the White House to issue memorandums to enforce the law. Of course, the White House may have their own motives in this effort outside of harassment. If the White House intends to use this as a new vehicle by which to control or chill speech online that is not harassment (for example, political disagreement), then Florida will stand against that effort. Unfortunately, we have seen such motives from the White House very recently in the poorly executed and eventually disbanded Homeland Security Disinformation Governance Board.”
Another emphasis moving ahead from the task force will be protecting women from abuse that begins online. Schools and tech companies are also being brought in for their input to put together a comprehensive plan Florida, other states, and the nation can have in place to identify danger and stop it on a keyboard or cellphone, and before it goes anyplace else.