KOSA: A Nationwide Anti-Trans/LGBTQ+ Bill in All but Name
Over the last couple years, conservatives have become obsessed with “eradicating transgenderism.” This year alone, Republicans in red states have proposed 496 bills (84 of which have passed) targeting LGBTQ+ people. For instance, Florida has passed a so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law (which censors classroom discussions about gender identity and sexual orientation), banned trans people from using public restrooms, and criminalized gender-affirming care for both minors and many adults. Some states have passed anti-drag laws written so broadly that they’ve been used to prevent trans people from simply speaking in public. Often this legislation is framed in terms of “protecting the children,” but its true intent is to remove trans people (and LGBTQ+ people more generally) from the public sphere inasmuch as possible.
So what if I told you that there was a nationwide bill currently working its way through the U.S. Senate which, if passed, could be used to censor LGBTQ+ content on the internet? And what if I told you that it has bipartisan support and that President Biden has indicated he would sign it?
Well, that bill is KOSA — the Kids Online Safety Act. Obviously from the title, it is framed as legislation that would “protect the children” from potentially harmful internet content. But the language regarding what constitutes “harm” is written in an extremely broad way, applying to anything that might impact “anxiety, depression, eating disorders, substance use disorders, and suicidal behaviors” in minors.
And who gets to decide whether minors are being negatively impacted in these ways? State attorneys general. You know, people like Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey, who earlier this year announced an emergency rule banning gender-affirming care for most trans people of all ages. Or Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who last year declared that gender-affirming care for minors constitutes “child abuse,” leaving trans children susceptible to being removed from their parents’ custody.
That’s right, KOSA empowers state attorneys general — even those from the most rabidly red states — to take measures against internet and social media companies that platform supposedly “harmful”…