Within the vibrant tapestry of the internet, where fan fiction writers weave alternate realities and superheroes ignite steamy sagas, a storm of concern is brewing. As the curtain rises on the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), a torrent of opposition surges from digital privacy watchdogs to fandom Tumblr. The bill’s alluring name belies its contentious nature, stirring fears that it could reshape the internet’s landscape forever.
Activists worry KOSA may restrict queer kids’ access to supportive online resources and facilitate surveillance of abortion seekers. For @omarsbigsister, an esteemed omegaverse fan fiction writer, the bill’s implications hit close to home. With a platform of 100,000 TikTok followers, she fervently advocates against the bill, emphasizing the importance of preserving online anonymity.
Presented by Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), KOSA seeks to safeguard youth in the digital realm, requiring platforms to limit addictive features, offer minors the option to escape algorithmic recommendation systems, and safeguard minors’ personal data. However, more than 100 human rights and digital privacy organizations remain steadfastly opposed, fearing the expansion of sensitive data collection and potential privacy violations for older teens.
The amended KOSA states that platforms need not implement age verification functionality, but critics question how these platforms can comply with its requirements without age gates. As it stands, state attorneys general would wield the power to enforce the mandate to shield minors from harmful content, but they hold the key to defining what is harmful—a responsibility laden with complexity. This decision-making process hinges on “evidence-informed medical information,” a notion prone to distortion and the potential for content censorship, especially for queer identities.
The mental health of queer and trans youth thrives in the refuge of online spaces, where they can embrace their true selves and find understanding. Alas, a record-breaking 520 anti-LGBTQ bills flood state legislatures this year, evoking a sense of vulnerability. In such times, the internet serves as a sanctuary, nurturing diverse friendships and providing a haven for creators and artists.
Online activism emerges, led by creators seeking to mobilize fandom communities against internet bills like KOSA. @omarsbigsister, @juiceinaboxx, and Drake George, among others, have transformed their TikTok platforms into powerful avenues of political engagement. Their influence ripples through fandoms, elevating the voices of those who seek solace and acceptance within these digital realms.
The fears loom large—archival sites like Archive of Our Own (AO3) have faced DDoS attacks that raise questions about targeting queer content, hinting at possible perils under KOSA. The shutdown of AO3 sparked concerns about potential censorship of queer, mental health, or sex-related content, leaving creators and readers anxious about the future.
In the eyes of these digital organizers, Democratic senators have a duty to listen to young voices and protect the queer community’s interests. The internet, a realm of possibilities, offers solace, friendship, and understanding for those who need it most. With fervor, these activists battle against KOSA, determined to preserve cyberspace as a haven of acceptance and inclusivity.
Q: What is KOSA?
A: KOSA is the Kids Online Safety Act, a bill aiming to protect youth safety online and regulate platforms’ features and data access.
Q: What are activists’ concerns about KOSA?
A: Activists worry that KOSA might restrict access to affirming online resources for queer kids and enable local government surveillance.
Q: Who introduced KOSA?
A: Senators Marsha Blackburn and Richard Blumenthal presented KOSA, following Senate hearings on social media’s impact on teen mental health.
Q: Why do digital privacy organizations oppose KOSA?
A: Digital privacy organizations fear that KOSA could expand the collection of sensitive personal information and infringe on older teens’ privacy.
Q: Can KOSA be enforced without requiring age verification?
A: KOSA initially included age verification, but it was later amended to state that platforms are not required to implement it, raising questions about compliance.
Q: How can state attorneys general enforce KOSA’s mandate?
A: State attorneys general have the power to enforce KOSA’s mandate to protect minors from harmful content, but determining what is harmful poses challenges.
Q: Why is the online space essential for queer and trans youth?
A: The internet offers a sanctuary for queer and trans youth, providing acceptance and understanding, especially in the face of anti-LGBTQ bills.
Q: What is the impact of internet bills on fandom communities?
A: Internet bills like KOSA prompt concern among fandom communities, fearing potential censorship and threats to their online havens.
Q: What motivates online activists?
A: Online activists mobilize fandom communities to raise awareness and protect the digital spaces that foster acceptance and community.
First reported on TechCrunch