This Pride Month, a deluge of anti-LGBTQ+ attacks makes fighting for queer and trans people’s safety and freedom more important than ever. Fight for the Future and 23 other groups are calling on Congress and the FTC to take steps to protect LGBTQ+ people through tech policy priorities that reflect marginalized communities’ experiences and vulnerabilities.
The groups—including sex worker groups, racial justice advocates, legal groups, and digital rights organizations—have asked policymakers to crack down on Big Tech monopolies that censor and control our speech; fight Section 230 carve outs like the EARN IT Act that would tear down our online communities; and lastly, fight private and government surveillance that endangers queer and trans lives. Following the Dobbs decision, these steps would also help protect the privacy and security of people seeking or providing abortion health care.
In the letter, the groups urge legislators and regulators to recognize their power to protect the voices and safety of marginalized groups. Tech policy can be a tool for justice, but policymakers must center the concerns of the most affected before they make deadly mistakes. As Pride Month closes out, the opportunity remains to make impactful change to protect queer and trans people at a critical point in time.
Statements from signing organizations:
“Pride Month should be a reminder of the incomplete work to liberate LGBTQ+ folks, especially those left out by the mainstream movement. This year, threats to queer and trans people’s safety, freedom, and bodily autonomy are multiplying, and technology can and must be a force for liberation, not oppression. Congress and the FTC have an obligation to listen to organizers and use their power to protect our community,” said Fight for the Future’s Evan Greer (she/her).
“Like other industries before it, Big Tech’s products should be safe for consumers—both here in the US and around the world,” said GLAAD Senior Director of Social Media Safety, Jenni Olson. “Congress and the FTC must take leadership now to protect LGBTQ people, and all of us, from the myriad of harms being inflicted on society by social media companies.”
Letter and full list of signers:
June 30, 2022
Dear Members of Congress and FTC Commissioners,
As LGBTQ+ Pride Month draws to a close, we urge elected officials and regulators to take specific steps in the tech policy arena to protect the voices, safety, and community of LGBTQ+ people.
53 years after Stonewall, the LGBTQ+ community is under renewed attack. Extremist calls to exterminate queer and trans people are disseminating into the mainstream. Hate crimes against our community are on the rise. At the same time, states are passing unconstitutional, regressive laws intended to exclude us from activities and public life, erase us from history, and deny us lifesaving services. Many of these laws explicitly target queer and trans youth, threatening their right to grow up free of fear. This onslaught adds to existing threats against trans and queer people of color, who experience heightened levels of violence and discrimination, and sex workers, who also face disproportionate harm.
Advocates for LGBTQ+ people continue to fight back against discriminatory laws and rulings in the courts and at every level of government. However, many of the battles for our rights and lives are taking place elsewhere—in tech regulators’ offices and in the boardrooms of Big Tech companies. You, policy makers focused on technology and tech policy, have a vital role to play in protecting LGBTQ+ people. This Pride Month, we call on you to listen to those most impacted by tech regulation and take three steps to defend our community.
- Crack down on Big Tech monopoly power and abuses.
Big Tech companies like Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Google abuse their monopoly power to the detriment of LGBTQ+ people. When a few monopolies control the places where we speak, work, and learn, their gatekeeper power is leveraged against marginalized communities, including the LGBTQ+ community. In addition, Apple’s draconian app store policies have been used as a chokepoint to censor LGBTQ+ related apps in dozens of countries. To address these harms, Congress must pass the American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICOA, S. 2992) and Open App Markets Act (OAMA, S. 2710), bipartisan antitrust bills targeting Big Tech monopolies. These bills will help reduce the influence of Big Tech giants, allowing better alternatives for LGBTQ+ online communities to flourish.
- Fight dangerous legislation like the EARN IT Act.
Lawmakers must listen to LGBTQ+ people, sex workers, and human rights experts when crafting policies around online platforms, content moderation, and Section 230. Members of Congress from both parties have introduced dangerous and misguided bills like the EARN IT Act, which has been condemned by nearly every major LGBTQ+ organization in the US as a bill that would repeat the failures of SESTA/FOSTA and disproportionately harm LGBTQ+ people.
As it stands, Section 230 is a vitally important bulwark against online censorship. The recent overturning of Roe v. Wade and state laws targeting LGBTQ+ speech presage a future with more government limitations on acceptable speech, making it more important than ever that lawmakers take a thoughtful approach to any legislation impacting Section 230 and online expression.
- Fight back against private and government surveillance that endangers LGBTQ+ lives.
For LGBTQ+ people in the US and around the world, data privacy and protection from surveillance can be a matter of life or death. Companies like Grindr have sold users’ location data for years, including in countries where homosexuality remains illegal. Facebook’s algorithms can “out” people. Now, in many states, location data can and will be used to criminalize people seeking gender-affirming health care.
As the risks to LGBTQ+ people and families expand, legislators and regulators have not done enough to prevent egregious abuses of personal data, location tracking, and discriminatory biometric surveillance. To address current and future risks, Congress must pass strong federal data privacy laws and end surveillance-driven business practices that put our community in danger, including the Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act. The FTC must crack down on private surveillance operations and end the use of discriminatory algorithms that impact our community.
This Pride Month, you have the opportunity to honor our lives with action, instead of empty platitudes. Fighting monopoly power, preventing Section 230 rollbacks, and cracking down on surveillance will help prevent technology from amplifying the existing dangers to our community.
18 Million Rising
Adult Industry Laborers & Artists Association
Black and Pink Massachusetts
Cares Sexual Wellness Services
Erotic Service Providers Legal Education Research Project
Fight for the Future
Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD)
National Black Justice Coalition
National Lawyers Guild
Ranking Digital Rights
Reframe Health and Justice
Right To Be formerly Hollaback!
Sacramento HIV Planning council and Sacramento NLG
SWOP Behind Bars
The 6:52 Project Foundation, Inc.
The Sex Workers Project of the Urban Justice Center
UConn Law School
Win Without War
Woodhull Freedom Foundation