The Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) is a weaponized right-wing attack masquerading as a bipartisan “protection” effort. Joe Biden loves it. Some of the most otherwise progressive Senators have co-sponsored it (@Sheldon Whitehouse, I’m looking at you). Only the people who’ve read it are worried.
A new bill called the Kids Online Safety Act, or KOSA, is sailing towards passage in the Senate with bipartisan support. Among other things, this bill would give the attorney general of every state, including red states, the right to sue Internet platforms if they allow any content that is deemed harmful to minors. This clause is so vaguely defined that attorneys general can absolutely claim that queer content violates it — and they don’t even need to win these lawsuits in order to prevail. They might not even need to file a lawsuit, in fact. The mere threat of an expensive, grueling legal battle will be enough to make almost every Internet platform begin to scrub anything related to queer people.
The right wing Heritage Foundation has already stated publicly that the GOP will use this provision to remove any discussions of trans or queer lives from the Internet. They’re salivating over the prospect.
Here’s the Heritage Foundation quotation:
Keeping trans content away from children is protecting kids. No child should be conditioned to think that permanently damaging their healthy bodies to try to be something they can never be is even remotely a good idea. (from a Heritage Foundation tweet in May of this year)
In other words, this bill will turn the entire Internet, or at least the entire U.S. Internet, into a place that looks like a Florida classroom under Ron DeSantis’s maniacal censorship rules. And don’t fool yourself, the problem will not stop with trans or queer lives, just as DeSantis hasn’t. Right behind that is the “any mention of racism or the evils of slavery makes white kids feel bad” movement, which defines virtually anything that might make a Black kid feel proud, or strong, or even seen, as “unsafe.”
Charlie Jane isn’t exaggerating. She provides good strong links to other explanations (such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s article), and she also provides some of the text of the law itself.
any state attorney general may sue an Internet company if they have “reason to believe that an interest of the residents of that State has been or is threatened or adversely affected” by its content. Before filing a lawsuit, AGs are supposed to notify a special commission in writing, but this requirement is waived if the AG believes that the notification is “not feasible.”
In other words, the attorney general of Texas, Florida, Alabama or Tennessee has basically free reign to sue, or threaten a lawsuit, any time they can claim something on the internet is bad for kids. And there’s no evidence required — the AGs simply need to have “reason to believe” something is harmful.
Just exactly the way a police officer can say they “feared for their life” without having to justify that fear in any way. Also just the way any rando in Texas can accuse someone they don’t like of aiding and abetting an abortion, and get paid for it. There’s a pattern here, folks.
If KOSA passes, resources for queer, trans, and gender-nonconforming kids will dwindle to almost nothing. Resources to prevent teen suicides will go away also. Resources for kids of color, same story. Resources for disabled kids are at risk too, because these monsters believe that seeing disabled kids is hurtful (i.e. “unsafe”) for AB kids.
Kids Online Safety? Well, maybe, if the kid is white, cis, straight, able-bodied, mentally healthy, and not marginalized in any other way. Maybe. But we all know that the resources the Heritage Foundation and its allies want to cover up can help any kid in trouble, and almost no kid grows up without running into real trouble at some point.
No joke: this is an uphill battle. It may not be winnable. But it for damn sure isn’t winnable if we don’t try. All US residents, call your senators this week. If you only call your senators once or twice a year, do it for this one. If you never call your senators, this is the time to learn. If you have Republican senators, be sure to remind them that Joe Biden loves the bill.
Publicizing the truth matters too. In the face of strong bipartisan support, we need as many people as possible to understand that this bill is the exact opposite of what it says on the package. I’m going to start calling it the Kids Online Disaster Act; want to join me?
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