News & Updates

SIECUS and Advocates for Youth Oppose the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA)

Let’s Choose Empowerment over Censorship

WASHINGTON, DC – As organizations that are deeply invested in the safety and health of young people, especially those who are most marginalized, Advocates for Youth and SIECUS: Sex Ed for Social Change are concerned about the Kids Online Safety Act (S.1409), or KOSA.

KOSA is being put forth as a bill to protect minors on social media, however in reality it will block young people from accessing critical and potentially life-saving resources, including sex education and sexual health resources.

We acknowledge that there are bad actors on social media platforms that can create potentially harmful content. However, allowing the government to restrict content so broadly sets a dangerous precedent for censorship and free speech restrictions. Restricting young people’s access to online information or increasing online surveillance does not actually address the problem that online safety bills like KOSA seek to address. 

This bill is part of a harmful trend in which policymakers target young people, especially queer and transgender youth, by censoring online content and limiting access to content they deem “inappropriate.” This can go as far as restricting health services, banning books, limiting sex education, and censoring content related to race, gender identity, and sexual orientation. 

As studies have shown, many of the more than 5.7 million LGTBQIA young people in the United States rely on social media as informal learning environments, safe spaces to explore issues of sexuality and gender, and a way to find and foster community. Online platforms can also be a way for LGBTQIA young people to access important sexual and reproductive health information, especially considering their needs are often left out of traditional sex education. For queer and transgender youth who might live in unsupportive home environments and/or states with anti-LGBTQIA legislation, social media platforms can function as a lifeline. KOSA would restrict or entirely end access to that lifeline, especially in states already hostile to marginalized young people. 

Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), lead coauthor of the bill, highlighted the importance of “protecting minor children from the transgender in this culture” and named KOSA as a tool to shield youth from “being indoctrinated” by social media platforms. KOSA would enable anti-LGBTQIA and anti-sex-education political actors to label any content they disagree with as “harmful to minors”. Further, the significant legal risk that KOSA would impose on social media platforms ensures that content would be over-filtered. 

Young people deserve to be safe online, but they also deserve access to the information, resources, and community that support their bodily autonomy, health, and well-being.

Instead of censorship, let’s empower our youth with the information they need to live happy and healthy lives. The federal government should invest in improving access to medically accurate, age and developmentally appropriate, and LGBTQIA-inclusive sex education. Ensuring that young people have access to high-quality sexual and reproductive health information at school can help keep them safe online, increase media literacy, and reduce their experiences with violence and bullying. 

We can support sex education in schools by passing the Real Education and Access for Health Youth Act which would create a much-needed federal funding stream for high-quality sex education, access to sexual and reproductive health services for marginalized youth, and sex educator training and professional development. We should also invest in the existing programs that support the health of young people: the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP) and the Division of Adolescent and School Health (DASH). These evidence-based programs help reduce unintended teen pregnancy and STI transmission but also provide access to mental health supports and safe and supportive school environments.

KOSA would put the onus of keeping young people safe on social media platforms. By relying on content restrictions and age filters, the bill would end up harming the very demographic it seeks to protect. By investing in a proactive approach that includes sex education that empowers young people with knowledge, fosters media literacy, and promotes a culture of safety and understanding – we can pave the way for a safer, more informed, and more inclusive future.

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ABOUT ADVOCATES FOR YOUTH:

Advocates for Youth partners with young people and their adult allies to champion youth rights to bodily autonomy and build power to transform policies, programs and systems to secure sexual health and equity for all youth.
https://www.advocatesforyouth.org/

 

ABOUT SIECUS:

SIECUS: Sex Ed for Social Change has served as the national voice for sex education since 1964, asserting that sexuality is a fundamental part of being human, one worthy of dignity and respect. Through policy, advocacy, education, and strategic communications efforts, SIECUS advances sex education as a vehicle for social change—working toward a world where all people can access and enjoy sexual and reproductive freedom as they define it for themselves.
https://siecus.org/

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