Representative Katherine Clark (D-MA) has announced a new federal bill to ramp up cybercrime enforcement training for police departments and create a national resource center that hosts a cybercrime-specific library. Clark announced the bill at a SXSW panel about how law enforcement and the tech industry can work together to bring down online trolls.
The proposed legislation, called the Cybercrime Enforcement Training Assistance Act, would establish a $20 million annual federal grant for state and local law enforcement agencies to train police officers, prosecutors, and emergency dispatchers in identifying and prosecuting cybercrimes. The funds would also be used to aid in extradition of cybercriminals between states.
The Congresswoman told The Verge in a phone interview that the echo across reports from victims was that law enforcement was unfamiliar with how to investigate cases of online threats and harassment and was therefore often dismissive of complaints. She said the reports were consistent with her own experience as an advocate for victims of Gamergate: "The FBI ... clearly told us this was not a priority for them and that was a sentiment we have found to be a theme." The federal grant for law enforcement training, she said, would therefore go towards "build[ing] the capacity of local law enforcement to understand the impact of these crimes and how to best investigate them."
"The FBI ... clearly told us this was not a priority for them"
Specifically, the money could be allocated to technical upgrades, expert hiring, and training programs. Clark emphasized the importance of introducing at least one person into each police department who has technical and cultural expertise in online crimes. Funding would be applied for in a competitive grants process.
A second, $4 million annual federal grant would be used to establish a national resource center, which Clark told The Verge would ideally house a library of shared resources: investigative techniques, training modules, and data about how cybercrime affects specific populations such as women, people of color, and the LGBT community. Clark also envisions the center hosting training sessions for community organizations, organizing support for victims, and providing technical assistance to local law enforcement.
Clark has been active in recent pushes to treat online threats as serious criminal offenses. In November, she introduced a bill that would make swatting illegal (and subsequently suffered a swatting attack herself). Clark also wrote an open letter to the FBI asking the bureau to intervene in Gamergate last year, and she penned another to SXSW when the organization briefly cancelled an anti-harassment panel scheduled for this week. After the outcry from Clark and many other activists (as well as corporate sponsors), SXSW reinstated the cancelled panel as part of an expansive Online Harassment Summit, which is currently underway at the conference in Austin, Texas.