Growing up in the 2010s, I had access to unfiltered internet. It allowed me to learn important information about mental health, and social issues surrounding race and sexuality that might now be considered controversial in many states.
We can all agree that there must be regulations in place to protect minors on the internet. However, the Kids Online Safety Act is not the answer. Censorship is not the answer.
KOSA was introduced initially in 2022 by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, (D-Conn.,) and Marsha Blackburn, (R-Tenn). After minor revisions in response to critics, KOSA was reintroduced in May 2023, but it has yet to pass the Senate, even though the bill has since been co-sponsored by 45 more senators and backed by President Joe Biden.
The bipartisan bill aims to protect kids on the internet by limiting access to online content deemed controversial. It requires online platforms to filter this content if minors are suspected users. Content that could be considered harmful to minors includes information about eating disorders, drug addiction, mental health issues, domestic abuse, and LGBTQ issues.
KOSA is a censorship bill at its core, disguised as an internet safety measure. Groups like the Electronic Future Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union strongly oppose KOSA because of its harmful nature. If passed, KOSA could block critical resources, communities and information from reaching kids who need them because the topics have been deemed controversial.
Another major flaw of KOSA is the power it grants state attorneys general, most of whom are elected politicians and therefore subject to populist pressures. Under this bill, every state attorney general can bring a civil suit against platforms that contain content he or she deems inappropriate. As Evan Greer, Fight for the Future director, said in an interview with The Verge, “We’re in a moment where the far-right has gone fully and completely mask off to advance an agenda that makes children profoundly unsafe. [This] is about harming and attacking LGBTQ folks and children’s access to sexual health information and education about consent.” KOSA would open a dangerous door, especially for LGBTQ communities.
Co-sponsor Sen. Blackburn validated concerns about politicians potentially using KOSA to advance the crusade against LGBTQ communities in a video published in September. She said a top priority among conservative lawmakers must be “protecting minor children from the transgender in this culture.” Bills like KOSA will only enable and empower hateful groups and individuals in attempts to erase transgender and other LGBTQ groups’ existence.
If lawmakers truly wanted to protect people online, they would act against data harvesting and other manipulative business practices. Online safety is not strengthened by promoting censorship and allowing state attorneys general to police what young people can see on the internet.
The purpose of KOSA should be to serve the best interests of the people of the United States. The duty-of-care section should be removed altogether, state attorneys general should not have the power to determine what is appropriate online, and there should be more measures to protect user information. Contact Congress about KOSA to fight against internet censorship.
Alyssa Foster is a 3rd-year student at Central Connecticut State University studying communication and psychology.