Melania Trump is aware that she’s getting criticism for taking on the issue of cyberbullying in light of allegations that her cause is seen by some observers as hypocritical, Vanity Fair is reporting.
On Tuesday, the first lady met at the White House with executives from social media and internet giants from Twitter, Google, Snap, and other outlets to discuss the issue of cyberbullying. Like other first ladies, Melania has taken up a cause that lies outside of her husband’s legislative agenda in much the same way that Michelle Obama and Laura Bush before her championed children’s nutrition and literacy, respectively. Even as her husband was in the closing weeks of his campaign for the presidency back in 2016, Mrs. Trump had made it clear that her issue would be protecting children from cyberbullying.
To that end, she invited tech executives to Washington to discuss the issue in what would be a closed-door meeting.
That she would take on cyberbullying has struck some observers as, at best, a little disingenuous, and at worst, outright hypocritical. Considering that her own husband has used social media — Twitter, in particular — to call opponents by name and, as Vanity Fair writer Kenzie Bryant puts it, “sic his followers on them.”
Melania Trump wants to end cyberbullying. Here are the times her husband’s behavior on Twitter has clashed with that goal. https://t.co/c3mx0LznKy
— The New York Times (@nytimes) March 20, 2018
Melania, for her part, is aware of that criticism, which she made clear in her opening remarks.
“I am well aware that people are skeptical of me discussing this topic. I have been criticized for my commitment to tackling this issue, and I know that will continue. But it will not stop me from doing what I know is right.”
Bryant gives the first lady credit for taking on the issue in spite of the allegations of hypocrisy.
“Very few people are out in the world yelling, ‘More trolls, please.’ It would be fantastic if she could curb bullying and pile-ons and general awfulness that plagues America’s preferred social platforms, especially if she could do so for children.”
Criticism aside, the specifics of the first lady’s plan to combat cyberbullying remain elusive. After welcoming reporters and photographers for opening remarks, everyone but the attendees was ushered out and the meeting was carried out in private.
According to Education Week, executives were quick to point out steps that they had taken to combat cyberbullying within their own platforms. Google’s Lee Dunn, for example, spoke of the platform’s Be Internet Awesome curriculum, which is designed to teach “security best practices and ethical behavior.” Similarly, Twitter’s Carlos Monje, while not mentioning specific initiatives by name, said that the company wants to make the platform safe for teenage users.