Digital Rights for LGBTQ+ People: 2023 Year in Review

Deeplinks 2024-01-01


An increase in anti-LGBTQ+ intolerance is impacting individuals and communities both online and offline across the globe. Throughout 2023, several countries sought to pass explicitly anti-LGBTQ+ initiatives restricting freedom of expression and privacy. This fuels offline intolerance against LGBTQ+ people, and forces them to self-censor their online expression to avoid being profiled, harassed, doxxed, or criminally prosecuted. 

One growing threat to LGBTQ+ people is data surveillance. Across the U.S., a growing number of states prohibited transgender youths from obtaining gender-affirming health care, and some restricted access for transgender adults. For example, the Texas Attorney General is investigating a hospital for providing gender-affirming health care to transgender youths. We can expect anti-trans investigators to use the tactics of anti-abortion investigators, including seizure of internet browsing and private messaging

It is imperative that businesses are prevented from collecting and retaining this data in the first place, so that it cannot later be seized by police and used as evidence. Legislators should start with Rep. Jacobs’ My Body, My Data bill. We also need new laws to ban reverse warrants, which police can use to identify every person who searched for the keywords “how do I get gender-affirming care,” or who was physically located near a trans health clinic. 

Moreover, LGBTQ+ expression was targeted by U.S. student monitoring tools like GoGuardian, Gaggle, and Bark. The tools scan web pages and documents in students’ cloud drives for keywords about topics like sex and drugs, which are subsequently blocked or flagged for review by school administrators. Numerous reports show regular flagging of LGBTQ+ content. This creates a harmful atmosphere for students; for example, some have been outed because of it. In a positive move, Gaggle recently removed LGBTQ+ terms from their keyword list and GoGuardian has done the same. But, LGBTQ+ resources are still commonly flagged for containing words like "sex," "breasts," or "vagina." Student monitoring tools must remove all terms from their blocking and flagging lists that trigger scrutiny and erasure of sexual and gender identity. 

Looking outside the U.S., LGBTQ+ rights were gravely threatened by expansive cybercrime and surveillance legislation in the Middle East and North Africa throughout 2023. For example, the Cybercrime Law of 2023 in Jordan, introduced as part of King Abdullah II’s


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Paige Collings

Date tagged:

01/01/2024, 13:32

Date published:

01/01/2024, 08:16