Human rights advocates, LGBTQ fear impact of KOSA

The United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Image by MotionStudios from Pixabay)

A bill that could restrict access to LGBTQ resources could be passed by Congress by the end of the year. 

The Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) would require platforms to guard kids from harmful content using new features and safeguards and to make privacy settings “on” by default for children. The law also mandates privacy audits and more transparency about privacy policies. 

KOSA is argued by many to be flawed, with many of the themes of this bill being pro-censorship, anti-LGBTQ resources and content, and a push for a mass surveillance system. 

The addition of KOSA would allow states that have enacted harsh anti-trans and and anti-lgbtq legislation, such as Florida and Texas – including their state attorney general’s to sue if they believe the platforms are not protecting minors. One of the potential harms listed in KOSA, includes the now heavily politicized term “grooming.” Companies could face legal action for even having LGBTQ content, and sex education resources – despite there being no factual basis to the claims that LGBTQ individuals are “grooming” children.

Far-right conservatives and including groups like the Heritage Foundation have “openly stated attorneys aligned with them and other far right types will abuse this silence LGBTQ+ or sex ed content for you if it (KOSA) passes,” according to reporting on the Daily KOS.

Over 90 human rights and LGBTQ organizations, as well as law centers and schools, have all co-signed a “Coalition Letter On Privacy and Free Expression Threats in Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA).”

“Dear Majority Leader Schumer, Chairwoman Cantwell, and Ranking Member Wicker:

We, the undersigned organizations, believe that the privacy, online safety, and digital well-being of children should be protected. However, S. 3663, the “Kids Online Safety Act” (KOSA), would undermine those goals for all people, but especially children, by effectively forcing providers to use invasive filtering and monitoring tools; jeopardizing private, secure communications; incentivizing increased data collection on children and adults; and undermining the delivery of critical services to minors by public agencies like schools. We oppose this bill.”

Excerpt from the “Coalition Letter On Privacy and Free Expression Threats in Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA).”

Despite the bipartisan support of KOSA by U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.). There were several other endorsements for the bill as well, including: “Common Sense Media, the American Psychological Association, the 5Rights Foundation, American Compass, the Internet Accountability Project, American Principles Project, and the Digital Progress Institute,” some of which are conservative groups aimed at limiting rights. 

Ultimately society must decide if mass censorship and surveillance of our children, and thus of ourselves. Is KOSA more beneficial or harmful?  Human rights advocates, and LGBTQ orgs are concerns that should be taken seriously, as they fear KOSA would be harmful to youth and society at large. 

The 90 plus organizations that signed onto the Coalition Letter On Privacy and Free Expression Threats in Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), closed with, “In short, while KOSA has laudable goals, it also presents significant unintended consequences that threaten the privacy, safety, and access to information rights of young people and adults alike. We urge members of Congress not to move KOSA forward this session, either as a standalone bill or attached to other urgent legislation, and encourage members to work toward solutions that protect young people’s rights to privacy and access to information and their ability to seek safe and trusted spaces to communicate online.

Read the complete letter here.