Nov 28, 2022 - Technology

Human rights, LGBTQ+ organizations oppose Kids Online Safety Act

Illustration of the Capitol Building with thumbs down clouds floating behind it

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Dozens of human rights and LGBTQ+ organizations wrote to members of Congress Monday opposing a kids' online safety bill they argue would not actually help make the Internet a better place for children and teens.

Driving the news: The letter comes as Senate sponsors of the Kids Online Safety Act push for passage in the lame-duck session of Congress, calling it an important way to hold social media platforms accountable for harm to children in the absence of a broader U.S. online privacy law.

What they're saying: "[We believe] that the privacy, online safety, and digital well-being of children should be protected," groups including the ACLU, GLAAD, Fight for the Future, Electronic Frontier Foundation, American Library Association and Wikimedia Foundation write in the letter to senators.

  • "However, [the bill] would undermine those goals... 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," the groups write.

How it works: The groups say the bill's requirement that sites filter online content would lead to "over-moderation" and cut off members of marginalized younger groups who rely on online services to learn about sex education or access LGBTQ+ resources.

  • They also argue the bill's parental supervision aspect "would effectively require online services to enable parental surveillance of 15- and 16-year-olds by default" and could harm teens experiencing domestic violence. They warn the bill could lead to sites inadvertently collecting more information from younger users than necessary because of age verification requirements.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to remove the name of one group, Public Knowledge, from the letter's signers. The group was listed in an early draft shown to Axios but later withdrew.

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