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[NEW REPORT] LOGGED OUT, LEFT OUT: How Online Platform Regulations and Anti-LGBTQ+ Efforts Align in the States

Social media platforms and online spaces have evolved into new and crucial avenues for connection, expression, and activism, giving rise to a wave of bills across the states aiming to establish guidelines for responsible digital citizenship and hold platforms accountable for their hosted content. For policymakers working to navigate digital safety, it is crucial to weigh the potential impact of these measures on LGBTQ+ users, especially in instances where they risk bolstering anti-LGBTQ+ efforts. 

Our new report, Logged Out, Left Out, identifies where in 2023 we saw these dangerous intersections in play, to shed light on the risks posed by certain platform legislations and encourage thoughtful regulation that prioritizes digital equity. 

An outline of the report and its findings is below, and you can read the full report here.

Historical Contexts & Contemporary Challenges. History reveals a pattern of discriminatory legislation targeting LGBTQ+ individuals, veiled under notions of morality and protecting children. Obscenity laws and anti-sodomy statutes were wielded as tools of repression, while moral crusades sought to erase LGBTQ+ existence from public spaces. Fast forward to the digital age, where the same discriminatory language has found new ground in online platform regulation. The rhetoric of protection and morality, often employed by legislators, can mask discriminatory agendas and restrict vital resources and safe spaces for LGBTQ+ youth.

Key Findings: Alignments, Weaponization, and Impact. Our findings highlight a concerning alignment between anti-LGBTQ+ bills and social media regulations, which often use protection rhetoric and parental rights as shields for discriminatory measures. Legislators, often positioning themselves as moral authorities, inject specific cultural values into legislation, impacting LGBTQ+ youth disproportionately. Provisions like age verification and parental consent requirements, while seemingly aimed at protection, can inadvertently harm vulnerable youth, limiting their access to vital resources and affirming communities.

The Importance of Preserving Access. The internet has emerged as a crucial sanctuary for LGBTQ+ youth and users, offering an unparalleled lifeline to support, connection, and affirmation. Access to online platforms is not just about convenience, but can be life-saving for the millions who navigate their identities without community or familial support. Research underscores the vital role of digital spaces in providing safety, honesty, and acceptance for these youths, making relatively autonomous access for LGBTQ+ individuals in particular a matter of protection and well-being.

Recommendations for Inclusive Digital Governance. In light of these complexities, the path forward requires a more nuanced and inclusive approach to digital governance. Federal legislators should prioritize implementing a national privacy framework, enacting comprehensive regulations to govern data collection, use, and protection on social media platforms and online services. State legislators, in turn, should focus on drafting legislation that provides comprehensive privacy protections for all users, avoiding isolation of specific user groups, as well as investing in digital literacy efforts. Finally, to better balance youth safety and autonomy, platforms must adopt strategies that prioritize user-centric features and enhanced reporting and moderation policies.

Moving Forward & Looking into 2024. While this report focuses on the 2023 legislative landscape, it is crucial to note that in the span of just a few months, 2024 is already proving a banner year for both social media regulation and anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. We hope this report can serve as a timely resource for policymakers, advocates, and stakeholders seeking to better understand and address LGBTQ+ rights in the modern, digital era.

LGBT Tech - Logged Out, Left Out
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