Amid DOJ inaction on cybercrimes, Clark introduces reforms


Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Katherine Clark has introduced the Cybercrime Statistics Act, legislation aimed at reforming the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) approach to addressing severe online threats, cyberstalking, online sexual extortion, swatting, doxing, and other forms of online abuse and cybercrimes. Clark has repeatedly engaged the DOJ to better understand how its agencies respond to cybercrimes against individuals. Clark’s office originally contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 2014 following multiple reports of severe online threats in the media and in her district. In 2015, after seeing little to nothing done to address severe online threats targeting women, Clark sought and successfully earned the U.S. House’s backing to instruct the DOJ to increase investigation and prosecution of severe online threats. Advocates for safer online spaces report that while online abuse and cybercrimes against individuals are increasingly prevalent, legal recourse and response from authorities are too often lacking.

Today, in a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Clark outlined her concerns about the DOJ’s continued inaction in the face of dangerous and pervasive online practices. Despite the prevalence of cybercrimes, little has been done to document and track these incidents. The Cybercrimes Statistics Act would require the Department of Justice to collect data on various forms of online crimes by adding cybercrimes to the FBI’s crime reporting databases. In addition, the bill would require the Attorney General to create a national strategy to reduce the occurrence of these crimes.

“For the millions who work and navigate their personal lives online, cyber abuse has real world consequences,” said Clark. “In an economy that is increasingly online, severe online threats, harassment, cyberstalking and other cybercrimes can profoundly impact career choice and economic participation. We need to make sure that, whether crimes happen online or off, our criminal justice system is equipped to respond.”     

Currently, the best available statistics regarding the incidence of cybercrimes like cyberstalking are based on a ten year old study from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, indicating 850,000 victims of cyberstalking each year. Independent research concluded, however, that out of an estimated 2.5 million cases of cyberstalking over a three year period, the Department of Justice prosecuted only 10. The Cybercrime Statistics Act requires the Director of FBI to incorporate cybercrimes against individuals into the Uniform Crime Reports and the National Incident-Based Reporting System. The legislation also requires the U.S. Attorney General to publish an annual summary of the reports of cybercrimes against individuals.

Clark has championed combatting severe online threats and abuse. In 2015 and 2016, she successfully earned the U.S. House’s backing to instruct the Department of Justice to investigate severe online threats, and to use existing laws to prosecute these crimes. Clark introduced the Prioritizing Online Threats Enforcement Act to ensure that federal law enforcement has the resources they need to enforce laws regarding the use of the internet to perpetuate severe threats. Clark is also the author of the Interstate Swatting Hoax Act of 2015, legislation to criminalize hoax calls made to law enforcement to elicit an armed police response. Clark’s bill, the Cybercrime Enforcement Training Assistance Act, is legislation that gives local law enforcement the tools necessary to prevent and prosecute criminal online threats and harassment. In July, Clark introduced the Interstate Sextortion Prevention Act, legislation that makes online sexual extortion a federal crime.

Full text of HR 6002 can be found here.