Melania Trump's cyberbullying campaign almost identical to Obama-era pamphlet

Re-branded guide for parents features new introduction by the first lady

Jon Sharman
Tuesday 08 May 2018 18:27 BST
US first lady Melania Trump announces her 'Be Best' initiative in the Rose Garden of the White House on 7 May
US first lady Melania Trump announces her 'Be Best' initiative in the Rose Garden of the White House on 7 May (EPA)

Melania Trump recycled an Obama-era pamphlet about cyberbullying and online security as part of her new “Be Best” child wellbeing initiative.

Her “Talking With Kids About Being Online” leaflet is largely identical to one released in 2014 by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), titled “Net Cetera”, which offered advice to parents and guardians.

The re-branded version features an introduction from the first lady and a tweaked front cover – with a more modern-looking mobile phone – but also some updated sections.

Advice on multi-factor authentication for online accounts, and strong password creation, now appear under the “Making Computer Security A Habit” pages.

Paragraphs about peer-to-peer file sharing were replaced with information on backing up files and securing a home network, and a section called “Sexting” was re-named “Sexting: Don’t Do It”.

The FTC tweeted: “We’re excited that at the @FLOTUS initiative launch today, the First Lady distributed copies of the @FTC’s guide that encourages parents to discuss the importance of being safe & responsible online with their kids.”

A spokeswoman for the first lady said the agency had asked her to include the booklet in her materials.

Ms Trump’s campaign focuses on children’s physical and mental security, and staying safe online. A particular aim is countering the opioid drug addiction crisis.

Launching the “Be Best” campaign on Monday, Ms Trump said: “As a mother and as first lady, it concerns me that in today’s fast-paced and ever-connected world, children can be less prepared to express or manage their emotions and oftentimes turn to forms of destructive or addictive behaviour such as bullying, drug addiction or even suicide.

“I feel strongly that as adults, we can and should ‘be best’ at educating our children about the importance of a healthy and balanced life.”

During nearly 16 months as first lady, Ms Trump has visited young hospital patients in the US and during overseas trips with her husband Donald Trump, often reading to them and encouraging them.

Her interest in the opioid drug crisis has taken her to care centres and hospitals in West Virginia and Ohio to learn about the epidemic’s effect on babies born to mothers addicted to the powerful painkillers. She held a White House roundtable on the issue last autumn.

The first lady invited representatives of major technology and social media companies to Washington in March to discuss internet safety, more than a year after she had promised to use her platform to discourage cyberbullying.

Observers and critics pointed out that her choice of campaign issue appeared to be at odds with her husband’s use of Twitter to single out and criticise opponents, but Ms Trump said at the meeting she would not be discouraged from doing what she thought was right.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, also denied the president had worsened online bullying on Monday.

“When it comes to kids, this is something that has been problematic, and something that we have seen over the last decade,” Ms Sanders said. “And the first lady sees it to be an important issue, and something that she wants to address.”

In 2016, Ms Trump gave a speech to the Republican National Convention containing several lines first spoken by Michelle Obama several years earlier. The speech was put together by a team of writers, the Trump campaign said at the time.

Additional reporting by agencies

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