Transgender and gender-expansive kids continue to be at the heart of a contentious debate surrounding the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), as more than 100 parents have signed an open letter expressing strong opposition to the bill. The KOSA, aimed at protecting children from harmful online content, has drawn criticism from LGBTQ+ advocates who fear it may be exploited by Republicans to limit access to LGBTQ+ content.
In their open letter, these parents passionately denounce KOSA as “dangerous and misguided,” asserting that it will jeopardize the safety of transgender and gender-nonconforming youth. Although the bill has undergone revisions to address LGBTQ+ activists’ concerns, many argue that these changes remain insufficient.
The letter underscores the parents’ deep empathy for those whose children have suffered due to the practices of Big Tech social media companies, including addictive design, intrusive surveillance, and the failure to combat online hate and bullying. However, they contend that legislation like KOSA would inadvertently compromise the safety of their own children by granting unprecedented power to right-wing state attorneys general. These same attorneys general have actively pursued measures such as banning gender-affirming healthcare and labeling accepting families as ‘groomers’ and ‘child abusers.’
Critics of KOSA also point out that the bill could incentivize tech platforms to engage in even more intrusive data collection. In a climate where state legislatures are increasingly passing laws criminalizing gender-affirming care for minors and making life in the public sphere untenable for trans individuals, the bill’s implications are deeply concerning.
The parents’ letter cites a recent report from the U.S. Surgeon General highlighting the vital role of social media and online communities as a “lifeline” for LGBTQ+ kids. It calls for holding tech companies accountable and regulating them without cutting off essential resources for these vulnerable youth.
While KOSA enjoys bipartisan support, including from President Biden, critics, including the American Civil Liberties Union, contend that it may ultimately increase harm and surveillance, particularly related to LGBTQ+ identities. Although the bill has undergone amendments, some remain unconvinced that it adequately safeguards LGBTQ+ youth.
Evan Greer, director of Fight for the Future and a parent involved in organizing the open letter, proposes alternative ways to address the bill’s intentions, such as passing a robust data privacy law and addressing manipulative business practices. Greer emphasizes that these goals can be achieved without giving state attorneys general the power to censor online speech.
As opposition to KOSA mounts, advocacy groups like Fight for the Future have rallied nearly 300,000 individuals using online tools to voice their concerns. While some legislators have expressed their reservations, the debate over the bill’s implications for transgender and gender-expansive youth continues to unfold on the national stage.