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Think about the KOSAquences

July 17, 2023

We live in an exciting age of expansive and fast-growing technology. With new technology, though, comes new concerns about the online safety and user privacy of minors. Concerns that the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) attempts to address. While well-intentioned, KOSA is too big of a bill. It attempts to regulate too much, ultimately allowing marginalized groups to slip through the cracks. We’ve already seen how censorial Meta can be when dealing with sex workers, and KOSA could make things worse. The broad language used in KOSA has the potential to censor information that is not harmful, like sex education, LGBTQ information, and abortion content. Woodhull strongly opposes KOSA as it violates our fundamental human rights, including the right to freedom of expression.

Proponents of the bill claim to act in the “best interest” of minors to mitigate potential harms surrounding mental health, addiction, violence, sexual exploitation and abuse that occur online. Who can argue with that? The problem with KOSA lies in its loose definition of these harms. In the bill’s “Duty of Care” provision, KOSA provides murky and highly subjective definitions of these potential threats to minors. Words like “grooming”, which has been weaponised against LGBTQ people and those seeking gender-affirming care, would allow this legislation to be exploited by groups looking to censure information they deem “harmful” .

Yes, broad descriptions are needed when writing bills of this scope, but KOSA gives legislators an invitation to censor anything they deem harmful. In fact, several anti-LGBTQ organizations have already pledged to use online safety legislation, such as KOSA, to ban trans content for minors.

Additionally, KOSA proposes stricter online safeguards for minors and parents. Section 4A of the bill explains that platforms will establish a default safeguard for minors that “provides the most protective level of control”. Existing algorithms designed to block explicit content are unreliable. KOSA will encourage platforms to over-moderate content which will lead to the censoring of important and educational material.

This, to Woodhull, is the most dangerous aspect of the Kids Online Safety Act. Not only would KOSA lead to the widespread censorship of sexual content, but of sexual expression, a right protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 of the UDHR states:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

While Woodhull opposes KOSA as a bill, it brings to light many important issues surrounding the censorship of sexual freedom and expression. We look forward to legislation that can increase safety online without compromising our free speech rights.

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