“Big Tech is hurting our kids. KOSA would hurt them even more. Please listen to us.”
A group of more than one hundred parents of trans and gender expansive kids have penned an open letter urging lawmakers and advocacy groups to oppose the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) and instead support alternative efforts to rein in Big Tech companies.
Read the letter here: TransParentsLetter.com
The letter comes just days after a video surfaced where Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), says explicitly that one of her top priorities is to “protect minor children from the transgender [sic] influence in this culture.” Her comments mirror those of anti-LGBTQ hate groups that have also supported KOSA. Meanwhile, a broad coalition of dozens of human rights, civil liberties, racial justice, and LGBTQ organizations oppose KOSA, and have explained clearly why changes made to the bill do not address concerns that it will be weaponized against LGBTQ rights and free expression.
Nearly 300,000 people have emailed and called their legislators opposing KOSA using BadInternetBills.com, a tool maintained by Fight for the Future. Much of the traffic has come from a grassroots uprising led primarily LGBTQ young people self-organizing in a Discord channel and posting content on TikTok and other platforms. Rep Maxwell Frost (D-FL), the youngest member of the House, has already come out against KOSA, echoing concerns raised by LGBTQ and human rights advocates. Senators Markey (D-MA) and Cantwell (D-WA) also echoed these concerns during the Senate Commerce Committee markup of KOSA.
The new letter from parents of trans kids addresses KOSA supporters directly:
“We love our kids more than anything in the world. Just like any other parent, we would do anything to keep them safe. We hold deep sympathy for parents whose kids have been harmed by Big Tech social media companies and their abusive business practices. Our kids have also been harmed by these companies’ greed: their addictive design, their intrusive surveillance, their failure to address online hate, bullying, and abuse.
But legislation like KOSA would make our kids less safe, not more safe. It would grant extraordinary new power to right wing state attorneys general to dictate what content younger users can see on social media, cutting our kids off from lifesaving online resources and community.
…Big Tech is hurting our kids. KOSA would hurt them even more. We agree there is tremendous urgency around holding social media giants accountable and cracking down on their abusive business practices. That’s why we are imploring you to abandon KOSA, which is deeply flawed and faces overwhelming opposition from human rights, LGBTQ, racial justice, and civil liberties organizations. Then we can work together to advance more thoughtful proposals, like privacy, antitrust, and algorithmic transparency legislation that can address the harms of Big Tech without throwing trans kids and human rights under the bus. Please listen to us. Our kids’ lives are at stake.”
Several parents who signed the letter provided additional comments:
Julie in Indiana writes, “I wholeheartedly concur with this letter. Indiana’s legislative assault on my family’s rights have been extremely stressful and harmful, helping to incite hateful personal attacks. My kids feel isolated here and their closest friends live elsewhere. They talk, laugh, and play together via the internet. Considering how far-reaching Indiana’s anti-trans legislation already is, I fear KOSA would create an even more slippery slope. It is clear many legislators have personal anti-LGBTQ agendas that border on violating the separation of church and state. KOSA would create the internet version of the Hamilton East Public Library book banning fiasco in which individuals’ personal agendas censor only certain groups of people. I love my kids more than anything and have a strong, open relationship with both. We have every right to decide what is best for us. Parents’ rights must extend to all parents, not just the ones with similar mindsets as certain people in power.”
The parent of a trans kid in Massachusetts writes: “I am parenting a 13 year old trans boy. Like many parents, I am deeply concerned about the harmful impacts of social media on children, and I want to see more regulatory and legal action to hold big tech companies accountable for their actions. But I also know that KOSA is not the solution. It will do more harm by allowing bigoted, transphobic, and anti-LGBTQIA+ elected officials to censor social media. Please oppose KOSA. Thank you”
Mary in Nebraska writes: “Please remember that all kids deserve the protection of the state. Laws that increase self loathing and suicide are wrong.”
Another parent of a trans kid in Massachusetts writes: “This will be used to silence queer voices, especially trans voices. It will be used to isolate a marginalized population, it will be used to make queer kids who feel alone feel even more alone. This legislation will increase queer suicide rates. It will also enable right wing prosecutors to target accepting families of queer kids.”
The parent of a trans kid in New Hampshire writes: “We can do better than KOSA. Listen to our marginalized populations and those advocating on their behalf.”
Clare in Illinois writes: “The trans and gender expansive kids I know need access to online community for their mental and emotional health.”
Evan Greer, director of Fight for the Future and a parent who helped organized the letter, writes, “The changes that have been made to KOSA do not fix the deadly flaw with the bill, which is that it gives the government the power to dictate what speech younger users can see online, and would subject everyone to increased surveillance in order to access information and speak out online. If Congress refuses to listen and consider alternatives to KOSA, they will be actively putting trans kids’ lives in danger. Fortunately, there are alternative ways to accomplish the well intentioned goals behind KOSA without throwing trans kids and marginalized communities under the bus. For starters, Congress should pass a strong data privacy law that makes it illegal for companies to harvest people’s data and then use that data to power their recommendation algorithms. That would go a long way toward addressing the legitimate harms of Big Tech algorithms that are maximized for engagement at all cost, without violating the First Amendment or undermining human rights. Congress and the FTC also can and should take aim and manipulative business practices like autoplay, infinite scroll, and intrusive notifications, and they can do all of that without giving state attorneys general the power to censor speech that they don’t like.”