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Kids Online Safety Act: Good or Bad?

Kids Online Safety Act: Good or Bad?

By RZR News Team
Aug 08, 2023

Fast Facts

  • The Senate recently advanced a pair of child safety bills that are receiving backlash from Civil Liberties groups.
  • Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) have introduced a new piece of legislation that would build upon the existing Children’s Online Privacy Act passed in 1998.
  • The Children’s and Teen’s Online Privacy Protection Act, as the bill is being called, would raise the age of consent for data collection to 16 and create a new FTC division to enforce it.
  • In tandem with this bill, Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced the Kids Online Safety Act, which would put hold internet platforms accountable for monitoring and ensuring users under the age of 17 do not see harmful content that is linked to topics like suicide or eating disorders.
  • Critics are saying the bills are too presumptuous, creating a lack of equity among children, and one might even argue becoming what the bills set out to prevent.

Analysis

In an era where children’s lives are increasingly intertwined with the digital realm, the Kids Online Safety Act emerges as a vital legislative step to shield them from the potential harms of big tech’s unchecked influence. While the act’s intention to prioritize children’s safety is commendable, Americans must remain cautious about the broader implications of internet regulation.

The rapid proliferation of technology and digital platforms has exposed our children to an unprecedented level of risks, from online predators to harmful content. The Kids Online Safety Act serves as a necessary initiative to ensure that big tech companies take proactive measures to protect young users from such dangers.

However, we must tread carefully in our pursuit of regulation. Overly restrictive measures could stifle innovation and impose burdensome compliance costs on businesses, hindering their ability to innovate and compete. It is essential to strike a balance between safeguarding children and preserving the free market principles that have driven technological advancement.

One should also stress the importance of parental responsibility and education in navigating the digital landscape. Empowering parents with the tools and knowledge to guide their children’s online activities can complement regulatory efforts and foster a safer online environment.

While we should support measures that prioritize children’s well-being, conservatives must remain vigilant about the potential unintended consequences of internet regulation. Balancing the need for safety with the principles of innovation and personal responsibility is key to fostering a digital environment that benefits both our children and our society as a whole.

Learn more about the conservative viewpoint

The Kids Online Safety Act arrives as a timely response to the pressing need for enhanced protection of our children in the digital age. While the act’s objective to shield young users from the potential perils of big tech is laudable, it is imperative that we proceed with caution and mindfulness when addressing the complex realm of internet regulation.

The rise of digital platforms has indeed introduced a new landscape fraught with risks for children, including exposure to inappropriate content and potential contact with online predators. The Kids Online Safety Act, by placing accountability on tech companies to implement measures that prioritize child safety, takes a significant step forward in addressing these concerns.

However, a balanced approach is essential. Excessive regulation could inadvertently stifle innovation and impose undue burdens on tech industry players, possibly hindering the very advancements that can contribute to a safer online environment. Striking the right equilibrium between safeguarding children and promoting technological progress requires a thoughtful and nuanced approach.

The act should not operate in isolation; rather, it should complement broader efforts to educate parents and guardians about responsible digital parenting. Ensuring that caregivers have access to comprehensive information and resources empowers them to guide children’s online activities and make informed decisions.

In conclusion, the Kids Online Safety Act responds to a critical need by prioritizing child protection in the digital realm. While we embrace this progress, we must tread carefully to avoid unintended consequences that could hinder innovation or infringe on personal freedoms. A comprehensive approach, one that combines regulation with education, stands as the most effective strategy to create a safer online environment for our children, nurturing their development while preserving the positive aspects of technological advancement.

Learn more about the independent viewpoint

The Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) is, to be blunt, seemingly nothing more than a trojan horse designed to censor the internet and punish LGBT Americans. While KOSA does have some support from President Biden and right-wing Democrats, the bipartisan nature of KOSA does not make the bill any less harmful. Under this proposed bill, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) would have near-unlimited power to arbitrarily determine what sort of content is age appropriate for children, which is a blatantly unconstitutional attack on the First Amendment. Not only that, but state prosecutors would also have the power to sue online platforms for distributing content deemed harmful to minors, an incredibly vague standard that is ripe for abuse by government censors.

The Democratic Party is making a grave mistake by allowing the GOP to control the narrative surrounding KOSA and by ignoring the clear queerphobic implications of the bill. The right-wing Heritage Foundation (an organization that previously criticized KOSA for not being sufficiently transphobic) already publicly admitted the bill’s true purpose, tweeting that the GOP will use KOSA to eliminate LGBT content on the internet. Nearly 100 pro-LGBT groups have already spoken out against the bill, warning that the bill both endangers the privacy of internet users and will inevitably be used to target queer content if it becomes law.

Online privacy is incredibly important to LGBT communities, as governments and surveillance companies around the world frequently harvest online data to target queer people. Studies have also shown that social media and online queer communities are especially important to LGBT people since they can provide a safe space where users can discuss LGBT issues without being forced out of the closet. Under KOSA, however, these communities are in danger of being targeted. Protecting LGBT communities online is especially important today given the increasing amounts of harassment that LGBT groups face in the modern era from right-wing moral crusaders.

People familiar with U.S. politics might be reminded of SESTA-FOSTA, a 2018 anti-sex trafficking law that also threatened to censor the internet and, rather than stop sex trafficking, ended up endangering the lives of sex workers instead. Both KOSA and SESTA-FOSTA are byproducts of the puritanical anti-sex movement within American conservatism – in fact, one of the main supporters of KOSA is the anti-porn lobbying group NCOSE. There is a direct intersection between the anti-porn movement and the anti-queer movement on the right; just look at how LGBT content is frequently targeted by censors for its supposedly “sexual” nature, often by the same Christian groups who view pornography as sinful. 

The American right has frequently used attacks on pornography as a smokescreen to disguise their apparent censorship agenda, a strategy that was previously employed by Anthony Comstock and his “anti-vice” laws in the 19th century. Today, there is still an influential anti-porn faction in the Republican party that aims to ban sexual content in America, in both art and education. KOSA is merely the latest salvo in an age-old censorship movement.

– Matthew Kimball

Learn more about the liberal viewpoint

Imagine someone told you your entire perception of reality is but a shadow of what the world actually is. Pretty heavy, but what if I said this was an idea written about by Plato in The Allegory of the Cave? Imagine you are chained to a wall in a cave and positioned so you cannot move your head enough to look behind you. 

In front of you is a brick wall, and there is a fire behind you that is situated out of sight but cast shadows of people and objects that pass behind you at the same elevation as the fire. You would assume what you are seeing is in fact the real object when in reality, it is just a shadow of an object. 

Plato’s argument was that humanity cannot understand the true forms of things, as they really only exist conceptually in our minds. In the context of the modern day, where information is quite literally at our fingertips, we are not always able to access it. 

Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) have introduced to the Senate floor legislation to build upon the existing Children’s Online Privacy Act passed in 1998. If signed into law, it would raise the age of consent to data collection to 16 and create a new branch of the Federal Trade Commission to enforce it. 

Perhaps the most ironic part about this proposal is the goal of giving children privacy online by installing governmental oversight on them. Plato’s writing still rings true today, as the government is well-intentioned in this bill and another called the Kids Online Safety Act

The Kids Online Safety Act holds internet platforms accountable for monitoring and ensuring users under the age of 17 do not see harmful content that is linked to topics like suicide or eating disorders. Again, this is well-intentioned, but like Plato’s Allegory, one is creating an illusion of truth. 

The internet is a dangerous place, and kids objectively speaking are more susceptible to predators. However, does this mean they need someone looking over their shoulders every minute to ensure they are okay or what they are seeing is deemed socially acceptable?

Learn more about the libertarian viewpoint