The poorly drafted “Kids Online Safety Act” would make kids less safe, and would be weaponized to attack LGBTQ+ people and abortion rights
Over 90 organizations have signed on to a letter led by the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT), Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and Fight for the Future opposing the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA). Signers include local and national LGBTQ and human rights organizations including the ACLU, American Library Association, Equality Texas, Equality California, Equality Virginia, Equality Utah, GLAAD, GLSEN, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Human Trafficking Prevention Project, Internet Society, Ranking Digital Rights, the Tor Project, TransOhio, Georgia Equality, Wikimedia Foundation, New America’s Open Technology Institute, and National Health Care for the Homeless Council.
The letter explains how KOSA would harm LGBTQ+ youth especially, and could be weaponized by Attorneys General to censor online resources and information for queer and trans youth, people seeking reproductive healthcare, and more:
KOSA establishes a burdensome, vague “duty of care” to prevent harms to minors for a broad range of online services that are reasonably likely to be used by a person under the age of 17. While KOSA’s aims of preventing harassment, exploitation, and mental health trauma for minors are laudable, the legislation is unfortunately likely to have damaging unintended consequences for young people.
KOSA would require online services to “prevent” a set of harms to minors, which is effectively an instruction to employ broad content filtering to limit minors’ access to certain online content. Content filtering is notoriously imprecise; filtering used by schools and libraries in response to the Children’s Internet Protection Act has curtailed access to critical information such as sex education or resources for LGBTQ+ youth. Online services would face substantial pressure to over-moderate, including from state Attorneys General seeking to make political points about what kind of information is appropriate for young people.
At a time when books with LGBTQ+ themes are being banned from school libraries and people providing healthcare to trans children are being falsely accused of “grooming,” KOSA would cut off another vital avenue of access to information for vulnerable youth.
Politico and other outlets have reported that Democratic leadership had considered including KOSA in the must-pass omnibus package, claiming that it was “non-controversial.” This letter signed by dozens of prominent LGBTQ+ and human rights organizations shows that there is broad opposition to KOSA, and it must not be rammed through as part of a must-pass bill.
“The LGBTQ+ community is actively under attack and it’s unthinkable that Democrats are considering advancing a bill that will further harm us and disproportionately target queer and trans young people,” said Evan Greer, director of Fight for the Future. “Congress needs to pass real laws that rein in the abuses of Big Tech and protect everyone’s privacy and human rights rather than using kids as pawns to advance poorly drafted legislation in order to score political points.”
“KOSA’s aim of protecting young people online is commendable, but the bill risks jeopardizing the safety and privacy of some of our most vulnerable youth by presuming that parental surveillance of teens’ internet use is universally a good thing,” said Emma Llansó, Director of the Free Expression Project at the Center for Democracy & Technology. “Congress should focus on passing bipartisan federal privacy legislation and not rush KOSA through without time for debate.”
CDT is a 27-year-old 501(c)3 nonpartisan nonprofit organization that fights to put democracy and human rights at the center of the digital revolution. It works to promote democratic values by shaping technology policy and architecture, with a focus on equity and justice.