4 min read

Young people are fighting Congress's censorship bills

Hey guys! This week I'm highlighting some updates on KOSA and a New York Times call for student essays on online safety. Ken's got a note at the bottom about when and why we moved to Ghost. Today I learned semiconductors take PEDs.

Last week, Congress held a hearing with the CEOs of Meta, TikTok, Snapchat, Discord and Twitter, demanding to know why they aren’t doing more to protect kids online. 

Like most of these hearings, it was frustrating-to-watch polarization porn (Lindsey Graham: “TikTok is being used to basically destroy the Israeli state”), but it definitely worked as an intimidation tactic. The same week, Microsoft, Snap, and Twitter all threw their support behind KOSA, a repressive censorship bill that would childproof the Internet and supercharge online surveillance. Hard to expect otherwise: as Ken says below, All Companies Are Bastards.

The young people who have been determinedly organizing against KOSA, of course, weren’t invited. Instead, they engaged at a distance on Discord and TikTok—online spaces that have blossomed into anti-censorship organizing hubs over the past year, hubs that would themselves be threatened by KOSA’s new restrictions.

An image of a stuffed bear wearing a pink pig costume. Overlay text reads "KOSA WOULD HARM LGBTQ YOUTH AND LEAD TO MASS CENSORSHIP"
@heyskateboardguy on TikTok

One day, there will be articles, even books (I’m optimistic!) written about this online, youth-powered fight to halt the censorship steamroller. Today, there’s a New York Times student essay prompt.

What Should Be Done to Protect Children Online? If you’re a student, lend your thoughts. If you’re an educator, maybe you know who might be interested. I'm ineligible, but here's where I might start:

  • KOSA’s supporters are explicit in that they want to use it to censor “the transgender in this culture.” Censorship has been part of the Right’s playbook since forever, but when was “online safety” captured by the forces of centralization and control? Here's some history.
  • In an environment of escalating attacks on bodily autonomy—attacks that are torturous and deadly—KOSA would restrict crucial abortion information. How do state level anti-abortion laws link in with KOSA?
  • Seemingly the last power Congress has left over tech monopolies is deciding whether or not they can get sued. Probably some interesting paths to follow here: litigation in the American consciousness; lobbying and regulatory capture; the sorry state of antitrust law.

Though the Times is relying on kids to write in and share their perspectives, a recent Washington Post story has done more than most to contact young organizers and hear what they have to say:

 “These senators don’t actually care about protecting kids, they just want to control information,” one teenager posted. “If congress wants to protect children, they should pass a ... privacy law,” another teenager said. Others in the server accused the lawmakers of “trying to demonize the CEOs to push their ... bills,” which were often described with profanity.
“The internet allows people to see different ideas,” said Nathan, a 15-year old in New York who agreed to speak to The Post on the condition that they be identified only by their first name. “They can hear different ideas. They can learn about LGBT people. They can see so many things. These bills are created to censor and hide children. They are created to cut people off from the outside world.” 

Over 300,000 people have taken action against the current crop of bad Internet bills. If you're interested in joining the fight, we're running an action team on Signal: sign up here.

A bit of navel-gazing about newsletter software

by Ken Mickles, Fight for the Future CTO

If you're a real newsletter-head, you already know that a bunch of newsletters left Substack last month in protest of their content moderation policies. We left too, but just because we didn't want to be there in the first place.

My motto when selecting software for Fight for the Future is ACAB (All Companies are Bastards). All commercial software will eventually be enshittified or abandoned. When that happens, I waste time porting everything to a new system where it will live for a few years before the cycle begins anew. In my experience, the best guard against this is selecting open source alternatives whenever possible.

When we started Touch Grass, we went with Substack instead of Ghost (the open source alternative) because we hoped the network effects of Substack would bring in more subscribers. That has not happened. Touch Grass is growing, and we hope it'll continue to grow, but it sure doesn't seem to matter where it's hosted. So, when the opportunity to jump ship from a platform so clearly in the enshittification spiral presented itself, we jumped!

Now we're self-hosting Ghost. It was easy to install, works just as well as Substack, and takes no cut of our donations. All for about $3/month in hosting fees. Couldn't be happier!

(That said, let us know if your subscription got borked in the transition and we'll work to fix it. Also, please add touchgrass@fightforthefuture.org to your email contacts so Google doesn't mark us as spam [ACAB].)