Civil Society Warns Against the ‘Kids Online Safety Act’ | Will it Pose Further Danger to Youth?

In a letter to legislators on Monday, Nov. 28, several civil society organizations voiced concerns about the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA). 

They said the effort of enacting a measure meant to shield youth from internet abuse might end up being harmful to them.


According to CNBC, there are more than 90 organizations that have written to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York), Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Washington), and Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) to express their opposition to the KOSA.

These groups consist of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, GLAAD, and the Wikimedia Foundation.

The legislation is being spearheaded by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee).

It would require sites that are often visited by youths to look out for the safety of their users aged 16 and under.

The platforms would be accountable for minimizing the risk of physical or mental impact on underage users. These include the promotion of self-harm or suicide, encouraging addictive behavior, facilitating online bullying, and predatory marketing.

The bill would force websites to switch to more private settings for 16-year-olds and younger, then restrict their contacts. 

It would also enable tools for parents to track the time their children spend on particular sites and allow them access to certain information so they can address possible harm. Young users must be notified when parental controls are enabled.

Read Also: UK Government Comes Under Fire For Supposedly Failing to Safeguard Children from Online Harm

On Gender and Sexuality

Reports also said that several LGBTQ advocacy organizations joined Monday’s letter, stressing that the bill’s provisions to safeguard children might backfire.

“Online services would face substantial pressure to over-moderate … about what kind of information is appropriate for young people,” they stated. 

“At a time when books with LGBTQ+ themes are being banned from school libraries and people providing healthcare to trans children are being falsely accused of ‘grooming,’ KOSA would cut off another vital avenue of access to information for vulnerable youth.”

The bill has gained momentum as debates over parental control of what is taught in school, particularly regarding gender identity and sexual orientation, have emerged onto the scene. This is due to controversial state measures such as Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act, also called the “Don’t Say Gay” law, CNBC reported.

How About the Abused Children?

Prescriptive parental measures might be damaging to children in abusive circumstances, KOSA critics said.

They added that KOSA risks exposing kids facing domestic violence and parental abuse to more digital monitoring and control. And that KOSA might only undermine young people’s access to end-to-end encrypted technology, which they rely on to access mental health services and keep their data secure from criminal actors.

The organizations also believe the act will encourage sites to gather more information on children to verify their ages and ban kids’ accounts.

Instead of moving KOSA forward the session, the groups encourage the congress to work toward solutions that protect young people’s privacy, access to information, and ability to seek safe and trusted online spaces.

Read Also: Molly Russell: Coroner Says Social Media Platforms for Adults and Children Should Be Separated

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Written by Trisha Kae Andrada

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