4 min read

Parents of trans kids see through KOSA, Reddit AMA roundup, and links

A beautiful resistance is building against an internet censorship bill. Here are some updates. Plus, data piracy also occurs in the theater of the mind...

I’ve covered KOSA here before. If that’s an unfamiliar acronym, here are the basics: the Kids Online Safety Act is a very bad censorship bill wearing the sheep’s clothing of commonsense internet regulation.

Image of a statue of a wolf wearing a sheepskin.
Grrr! Also, this is a statue you can buy for your garden.

KOSA’s authors are rightly concerned about how the internet affects kids. But instead of cracking down on the companies that are financially incentivized to surveil, addict, and market to kids and teens, they’re proposing we give the government the power to decide what content is “harmful,” and have it deleted from the web. That would not be good.

What’s weird is a big contingent of Team Civil Liberties is in denial that KOSA, being a massive lever of media control, would be a handout to the forces of evil trying to ban books, shut down libraries, sanitize curricula, and generally disappear “unauthorized” cultures, stories, perspectives, and people from public life.

This month, bill co-author Marsha Blackburn was caught saying one of her top priorities is to “protect minor children from the transgender [sic] influence in this culture.” KOSA would let people like her do that, by pressuring social media companies to tag and restrict gender expansive content.

Parents of trans kids know this bill would put special pressure on their kids and their families. Last week, more than 100 signed an open letter urging lawmakers to reject the bill. Here are some of their reasons for signing—they point at the stakes for kids who are already being cruelly scapegoated by the Right.

LGBTQ+ resources may be considered "unsafe" by some, but they are shown to be lifelines for kids who are trying to figure out what's going on, often long before they're willing to share with even close parents. Being LGBTQ is not a moral issue, it isn't really even a choice. It's something you just are, like being right or left handed (or ambidextrous).

— Parent of a trans kid, Washington
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.

— Parent of a trans kid, Massachusetts
All children trans or not could be harmed by this legislation as they grow up and try to learn about sexuality and gender.

— Rachael, Washington

Yesterday, Fight for the Future’s Evan Greer co-hosted a Reddit AMA with Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and advocates from the ACLU, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and more.

Color photo of Senator Ron Wyden, a white man with grey hair wearing a navy blue suit and purple tie.
Verification here!

I’m excited to do a little Reddit-scraping reportage. Here’s one great Q&A:

User u/blakestaceyprime asks:

Is there a chance to propose good legislation instead so that politicians can get the feel of Doing Something without inviting disaster?

User u/senatorwyden responds:

Yes. I have been trying to write responsible tech legislation since the early 1990s. The best thing we could do is pass a strong privacy bill for EVERYONE. But since that seems stalled, there is a bipartisan bill we can pass right now: The Children and Teens Online Privacy Act, which will stop companies from collecting data on kids under 18. Cutting off data on kids will make it much harder for companies to target them with algorithms and harmful content. And it goes right after tech companies bottom line, which is about the only thing they care about.

See the whole discussion here.

Links! I’ve been on screens too much this week. This short roundup is a consequence of that behavior.

Color photo of a mug with the "eye-rolling emoji" printed on it. The mug is on a laptop and stack of books.
Mug found in my sublet. She’s everything to me
  • Twitter was a huge resource for indie journalists. For many of us, it was a public(ish) utility that allowed unconventional, peripheral, and timely news to surface. Now the place is trashed. How do we reorient? (Andrea Grimes at Dame Magazine)

  • E-flux editors think art criticism should work against the textual “averages” generated by machine learning algorithms. It’s been a minute since I’ve been in the art crit pond, so this was fun to happen upon… I also want to read the Hito Steyerl piece on “mean images” mentioned here. (Editors at e-flux)

  • Listened to this on today’s commute. Ben Tarnoff sketches out the life and influences of Joseph Weizenbaum, the technologist behind the ELIZA chatbot. Tarnoff really beautifully renders the complexity of both the man and this moment in AI history. (Episode at Tech Won’t Save Us)

  • On Bluesky: “Data theft in the 19th century must have been so interesting” …

    Parody of the

And that is all for now! Next week, I’ll be publishing an interview I’m really excited about—see you then.