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by Nabeel phatak  

"This time we understand the patterns, and this time we have the organisational infrastructure to push back," said Shaunna Thomas, executive director of the women's advocacy group UltraViolet, which released a 32-page guide for media along with a coalition of groups including Color of Change PAC, Planned Parenthood Votes and Women's March.

Unfair criticism

The groups say intense scrutiny of a vice presidential nominee is to be expected, but women are often unfairly criticised as overly emotional, weak or unqualified, or for their appearance or demeanor in a way that men are not. The attacks, which include false smears and threats of violence online, not only hurt campaigns but also dissuade women from seeking office.

Christine Todd Whitman, a former New Jersey governor and Republican, said Biden's running mate will be at the centre of an "ugly" social media campaign from online bullies.

Trump targets Harris: US president calls Biden running mate 'liar'
Trump targets Harris: US president calls Biden running mate 'liar'

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Harris, who was born in Oakland, California, has been the victim of online falsehoods for more than a year that say she is not eligible to become president because her parents were not born in the US. More recently, Facebook users added a new twist to the misinformation: that since Harris is not eligible to be president, if Biden did not finish his term, the presidency would automatically default to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat.

But mere minutes after Harris was announced as Biden's running mate, pro-Trump social media personalities and conservative news outlets claimed Harris called Biden a racist during a televised Democratic debate last year. In reality, she said, "I do not believe you're a racist," before criticising his past opposition to policies around school desegregation.


About the Author

Tafi Mhaka is a Johannesburg-based social and political commentator.