3 Huge Tech Companies Endorse Bill That Could Wipe Abortion Info From the Internet
The misleadingly-named Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) just got a boost from Silicon Valley.
In the fall, Jezebel reported how a bipartisan bill ostensibly meant to protect children from harmful content online could be weaponized by Republican politicians to censor everything from LGBTQ+ content to sex ed info to abortion resources—and for all internet users, not just children. Nearly two dozen Democratic Senators have co-sponsored the bill—which is (misleadingly) named the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA)—and, in the past week, three tech companies have come out in support of it.
KOSA would create a “duty of care” requiring social media apps and websites to “prevent and mitigate” harms to children, including by not recommending content that could cause anxiety and depression or could lead to “sexual exploitation and abuse.” That’s all well and good but a huge problem is that the bill would allow state Attorneys General to sue companies if they believe certain content is harmful to minors—meaning conservative AGs could weaponize the law to attack content they simply disagree with. In response, platforms likely would preemptively block content they think could get them sued; hence censorship for people of all ages.
Lead Democratic sponsor Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) claims the bill is meant to protect kids from algorithms that might recommend harmful content online but advocates worry how bad actors like, say, Texas AG Ken Paxton (R), would twist the law to suit their goals.
On Wednesday, X/Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino endorsed KOSA during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing about child sexual exploitation online. (As Mashable notes, this stance is in direct opposition to X’s supposed commitment to free speech.) The day before the hearing, Microsoft’s Vice Chair and President, Brad Smith, tweeted that the company supported the bill. And last week, a spokesperson for Snapchat’s parent company, Snap Inc. told Politico that they also back KOSA. Also testifying at Wednesday’s hearing were Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, but neither endorsed the bill.
The Senate has held committee hearings on KOSA but the full chamber has yet to vote on it. It has 47 total sponsors, and non-budgetary bills need 60 votes to pass the Senate. Still, supporters are pushing for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to schedule a vote early this year. We’ll be following this mess, so stay tuned.