President Reagan once quipped that the nine most terrifying words in the English language are “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” Perhaps the only way to make that sentence scarier is to add the two words “your children.” Indeed, other than the time-honored pretext of “national security,” perhaps no other phrase has been so viciously exploited to serve aims diametrically contrary to its professed aims than that of “child safety.” The troubling bill titled “Kids Online Safety Act” (KOSA), sponsored by Marsha Blackburn (R-CN) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), is no exception.

So what is KOSA, and why is it dangerous? KOSA is a bill that, according to the Washington Post, would “impose sweeping new obligations on an array of digital platforms” that would include “exercising reasonable care” to prevent their products from endangering kids with “bullying, harassment, and other harms.” According to the New York Times, this “duty of care” imposed on “social media platforms and video games” would prevent harm to minors, including “depression, eating disorders, violence, sexual exploitation and predatory marketing.”

On a superficial and naive level, there’s not much to disagree with. After all, who wouldn’t want to make children safer online? Unfortunately, it is hard to imagine how the government exercising more control over video games and social media platforms could amount to anything other than more political censorship and more political propaganda pushing left-wing insanity. In the present political and cultural moment, when bureaucrats and government officials talk about “bullying” and “harassment” and issues affecting self-esteem, this inevitably means censoring politically incorrect content that makes liberals uncomfortable. After all, we live in a farcical world in which appellate courts have even ruled that misgendering transsexuals constitutes “harassment.”

It has been an open secret for several years now that regime censors have preferred euphemisms related to safety. There is the notorious scam of “brand safety,” in which censorious shakedown artists threaten companies for advertising with organizations that have fallen politically afoul of the regime. Then, of course, there’s the fact that the censorship teams within Big Tech companies operate under the offices of so-called “Trust and Safety.”

It seems as though the KOSA bill is perfect for those who feel that the tech companies are not censoring enough and that, in addition to their Trust and Safety Departments within the tech companies themselves, what we really need is a council of government bureaucrats to inform them that they’ve “missed a spot” when a forbidden thought or idea goes uncensored. Under the KOSA bill, the government bureaucrat overseers would belong to the Federal Trade Commission. It is worth noting that the FTC is run by Biden appointee Rebecca Slaughter, who infamously stated that the FTC needed to make “anti-racism” a top priority in antitrust enforcement (whatever that means). Apparently Slaughter also brings her anti-racist approach to censorship, as she has been on record complaining that not enough was done to combat COVID misinformation in Spanish-language media. What better person than Rebecca Slaughter to decide whether social media companies are censoring enough in the name of preventing harassment (and, of course, to determine what harassment means)?

Rebecca Slaughter, head of the FTC. In a democracy, this is who decides what constitutes “bullying” and “harassment.”

At this point, it should be pretty clear why Democrats would support a bill such as KOSA. The question is, why would any Republican in his or her right mind support this bill? The New York Times recently ran a piece that perhaps provides a clue. The piece in question highlights a lawsuit by a number of state attorneys general against Facebook (Meta) for its ostensible harm to children. Both the lawsuit against Facebook and the KOSA enjoy a surprising amount of Republican support—the lawsuit enjoys over a dozen GOP state AGs as plaintiffs, and the KOSA enjoys thirty-three GOP co-sponsors in the Senate.

One can only guess that the Republicans supporting such measures believe that because big tech companies have played a major role in censorship, anything that inconveniences or imposes additional burdens on tech companies is strategically desirable. Big Tech has (for justifiable reasons) become such a symbolic enemy for much of the right that some in the GOP are vulnerable to the trap of supporting any measure that is inconvenient for a big tech company, even when such a measure has the effect of increasing censorship and further empowering the left. Indeed, KOSA’s co-sponsor, Marsha Blackburn, has a history of ill-conceived efforts to “discipline” Big Tech that only have the effect of increasing the ability of the left to censor conservatives. The first clue we have that this same dynamic is at work with KOSA and the associated litigation is that the suit in question cites Facebook ignoring a “study” from the pro-censorship group Center for Countering Digital Hate as evidence of its wrongdoing. To be sure, there are many things to criticize about big tech companies like Facebook (and Google, a far worse offender on pretty much every important dimension), but ignoring a study from a far-left pro-censorship group is not one of them!

As we dig further into the bill, the situation only gets worse. Let’s take a look at which digital platforms would have to submit to more government regulation and censorship under the KOSA bill:

The term “covered platform” means an online platform, online video game, messaging application, or video streaming service that connects to the internet and that is used, or is reasonably likely to be used, by a minor.

Sure enough, there is a carve-out to ensure that minors’ access to mainstream media propaganda won’t be interrupted. According to the aforementioned Times piece, the News Media Alliance, a lobbying group representing the interests of mainstream media, managed to carve out an exception for mainstream media news propaganda, which is evidently indispensable. How convenient!

The New York Times:

Last Monday, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, the United States surgeon general, called for warning labels to be placed on social networks, saying the platforms present a public health risk to young people.

His warning could boost momentum in Congress to pass the Kids Online Safety Act, a bill that would require social media companies to turn off features for minors, like bombarding them with phone notifications, that could lead to “addiction-like” behaviors. (Critics say the bill could hinder minors’ access to important information. The News/Media Alliance, a trade group that includes The Times, helped win an exemption in the bill for news sites and apps that produce news videos.)

It is particularly noteworthy that the bill goes out of its way to make video games a target for regulation. Many have perhaps forgotten that left-wing attempts to censor and render video games more politically correct under the pretext of protecting women from “bullying” led to so-called “Gamergate,” one of the most important cultural-political inflection points before the emergence of Trump. In short, left-wing commissars view video games as an unacceptable last bastion of freedom of expression for young men and have worked extra hard to correct this by injecting all sorts of woke-slop into the industry by hook or by crook. There is every indication that KOSA would serve as a Trojan horse to allow for more of such political meddling.

KOSA would also establish a Task Force on Kids Online Health and Safety that would work on mitigating mental health harms caused by social media companies. This Task Force would explicitly follow the recommendations established in a report of the US Surgeon General on “Social Media and Youth Mental Health.” Of course, this report heavily emphasizes “harassment” against transgenders as one of the chief dangers to children’s mental health and asserts that “political name calling on social media is cited as a starting point for digital harassment.”

Still worse than the US Surgeon General report is the so-called “National Academy,” which the KOSA would have conduct additional research to guide its approach should the bill pass:

Research On Social Media Harms.—Not later than 12 months after the date of enactment of this Act, the Commission shall seek to enter into a contract with the National Academy, under which the National Academy shall conduct no less than 5 scientific, comprehensive studies and reports on the risk of harms to minors by use of social media and other online platforms, including in English and non-English languages.

A perfunctory search of the National Academies websites shows literally hundreds of papers, symposia, books, etc. on fighting “misinformation,” “DEI,” “antiracism,” etc., often in league with some of the most notorious and disgraced tentacles of the Censorship Industrial Complex, such as the soon-to-be defunct Stanford Internet Observatory. There are even reports claiming “Russia was involved directly in the articles about Hunter Biden.” And sure enough, the National Academies are particularly interested in continuing the “Gamergate” battle to purge video games of anything that is not politically correct and deferential to the woke consensus.

National Academies:

Sylvain noted some norms have perpetuated, not minimized, harms, such as GamerGate’s proliferation of misogyny in 2014.16 In dealing with social norms online, he concluded, civil society has a large role to play.

At this point we’re beset with what one might call an embarrassment of riches when it comes to troublesome aspects of this so-called “Kids Safety” bill. One final point to mention is that the bill would also call for government bureaucrats to issue additional guidance for schoolteachers to promote the aims of the bill. To get a sense of the agenda here, it suffices to note that the National Academies has called specifically and repeatedly for schoolteachers to teach “media literacy.” For those unaware, “media literacy” is one of many favored censorship predicates now embraced by our regime overlords.

By now, it should be apparent that the KOSA is bad news and that this ill-conceived bill has about as much to do with protecting children’s safety as the Patriot Act had to do with defending patriotism—that is, nothing. One would think if politicians were concerned with children’s safety, they could start by making it illegal on a federal level for doctors to perform sex reassignment surgery or supply hormones to children. Even notoriously progressive Europe has managed to implement this bit of humane common sense. The real issue here is much bigger, however, than the fate of any particular piece of legislation. It bears repeating that this censorship Trojan horse enjoys the support of many Republicans, even many good Republicans who are typically good on most issues.

This state of affairs highlights just how important discernment and flexibility are when it comes to defending free speech and fighting back against the encroachment of wokeness into every corner of our lives. Big Tech has played such an historically large role in censorship that it has achieved something of a boogeyman status, to the point that Republican politicians reflexively think that anything that happens to be bad for tech companies is somehow strategically desirable or, on net, a positive for Americans. We understand the appeal of such logic. But the reality is that punishing big tech companies by imposing government bureaucrats who will pressure them to censor even more is not the political win that some Republican politicians might imagine it is.

One of the great lessons of the past several years is that while the censorship problem was in part due to woke actors within Big Tech, a great part of the problem was due to elements of the government pressuring big tech companies to censor information that was embarrassing to our ruling class. In light of this monumental discovery of the government’s illegal role in the censorship story, the last thing we should want to do is support legislation or other developments that would Trojan horse additional censorship authority to government bureaucrats, who would like nothing more than to silence anyone who dares to question the dirty lies on which our increasingly corrupt and incompetent regime depends. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.