Shireen Mitchell says that Black women and girls are under attack online.
“You’ve heard about the Russian interference on the election—how it sowed discord and division between groups,” the Stop Online Violence Against Women founder explained. “But you might not have heard that these divisions were centered on Black identity.”
Mitchell said that racism is a vulnerability in the United States that can be exploited and that there were a series of online campaigns that were the testing bed for what would eventually happen in 2016.
Donglegate was a campaign targeting a Black woman named Adria Richards who spoke up about sexism at a tech conference. During the campaign, she received death threats and lost her job, after her comments backfired.
In 2014, Twitter users began noticing accounts posing as Black women that were being run by men’s rights and pick-up artist communities, to co-opt social justice movements that were organizing online. Mitchell said this tactic would later become useful in the 2016 elections to suppress the Black vote.
“When the House Intelligence Committee released the 3,500 ads from the Internet Research Agency, the overall sentiment was that it was about race,” she stated. “No matter how sophisticated the algorithms will become, the solution is within reach and it’s a human one. I don’t believe it will be fixed until we focus on the victims of these attacks, instead of the attackers.”