US Senators plan to censor trans content in Kids Online Safety Act

US Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn, among several key supporters of the KOSA, stated that they would use this legislation to target transgender content. This raised concerns among LGBTQ+ advocates warning about the potential weaponization of KOSA against LGBTQ+ materials online.

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US Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn, a lead sponsor of the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) bill, has made an alarming statement against transgender people. This has raised concerns among LGBTQ+ advocates claiming that KOSA could be exploited to censor LGBTQ+ material online. Several key bill supporters have explicitly stated their intention to use its provisions to target such content.

The KOSA was first introduced in February 2022 and re-introduced in May 2023 with broad bipartisan support. President Biden has also backed the legislation.

According to KOSA, social media companies must take steps to prevent and mitigate mental health-related issues. Republicans in state legislatures across the US this year have made the false argument that being transgender ‘harms the mental health of minors’ and that exposure to transgender content and people is dangerous, even though transitioning has been proven to improve mental health and reduce the risk of suicide among transgender people. The potential weaponisation of such legislation against transgender people is abundantly clear.

While some aspects of the KOSA are laudable, such as incentivising social media platforms to curb compulsive underage use and strengthening privacy protections, certain elements can be exploited against transgender content. The bill could have serious negative consequences for LGBTQ+ online content even without targeted measures, as many social media platforms already have a history of self-censorship of such content. LGBTQ+ material is often demonetized, removed, or shadowbanned.