Why Net Neutrality Is Critical for the LGBT Community

The internet is a vital resource for many marginalized communities – particularly LGBT people. Now that net neutrality is under threat, it’s important to explore the reasons why a free internet is critical to protecting civil rights.

Just over a week after the FCC’s decision to repeal net neutrality rules, we are already seeing court action on the horizon and a possible resolution in Congress that would prevent Internet Service Providers, or ISPs, from throttling speeds and pushing users to their own products.

As a queer, gender fluid man, I truly fear what a loss of neutrality could mean – especially for LGBTQIA youth.

Net Neutrality Allows Our Voices to Be Heard

As Care2 has already noted, low-income communities will be hit hard by this decision. Providers like Verizon and Comcast could begin charging fees to access what have quickly become staple social media services.

Most notably, poorer households may have previously avoided paying large amounts for data and phone calls by using instant messaging services like WhatsApp through open WiFi. Deregulation would enable companies to charge fees for these services — most likely as recurring monthly charges.

A loss of net neutrality would also do away with an open platform, or what’s known as “whitelisting.”

Currently, the open internet means that regardless of the venue — Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube, etc. – anyone can access a platform to express themselves. Increasingly, however, the equal weight that was once inherent in these platforms has been eroded by companies seeking to increase revenue — usually under the guise of improving user experience.

As such, businesses can already pay to have internet algorithms favor their products in some form, but this illustrates just a small fraction of what could happen if net neutrality is eliminated.

The internet once had few gatekeepers, but as with traditional media, monetary interests have crept in. Without net neutrality, we could quickly see the amplification of only certain voices — namely, those who can pay as businesses strike deals with ISPs to be “whitelisted,” allowing for unfettered access.

Low-income communities will have little choice but to get their information and services from only the websites they can afford to visit.

Why Are LGBT Rights at Stake?

Due to poverty, homelessness and discrimination, LGBT youth are more likely to not complete school.

This lack of education can drastically decrease their future opportunities, like career prospects and earning potential. And without regular attendance at school, LGBT teens may also lack venues to socialize with peers. For many, their smartphone or computer may be the only way to interact with people who have similar interests. Throttling those services will undoubtedly deprive young people of that ability to connect.

Given the lack of sex education in most U.S. schools, many LGBTQ children have no choice but to go looking for answers online. This can lead them to forums or, sometimes, pornography. While this resource is far from perfect — with the potential to create body dysmorphia and unhealthy views of sex, it is the reality for many. Losing access to sexual health sites could cut off LGBT youth from already limited information about queer relationships and gender affirmation care.

LGBT media, which has thrived online, could also be impacted as consumers cut back on their access in order to save money. That would reduce certain outlets’ ability to provide credible and actionable information about politics and LGBT rights directly from LGBT people without the distorted influence of mainstream media.

And, of course, many of these points apply to minority ethnic and racial groups, as well as more broadly to women.

To allow a loss of net neutrality isn’t just granting global communication giants the ability to increase profits; it’s selling out the very ideals on which the internet was supposed to thrive as one of the last truly free spaces in which everyone’s voice can be heard.

Photo Credit: Brian Glanze/Flickr

64 comments

Marie W
Marie W5 months ago

Thank you for sharing

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Jim V
Jim Ven10 months ago

thanks

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Jim V
Jim Ven10 months ago

thanks

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Jerome S
Jerome S10 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Jerome S
Jerome S10 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Mike R
Mike R10 months ago

Thanks

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Mike R
Mike R10 months ago

Thanks

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Amanda M
Amanda M10 months ago

As a Wiccan, the free and open Internet has been a boon for me, especially living in a largely "red" and conservative Christian area now. When my husband and I opted for a Wiccan handfasting ceremony when we got married, creating such a ceremony involved the use of the Internet. Same thing with our children's naming ceremonies. Finding a Wiccan circle in the area? Same thing. Our town's library literally has NO Wiccan/Pagan books in it-they're all having to do with the Religious Reich (thank the Goddess the one in the county seat has Wiccan/Pagan books, but with only one car and limited time, how often can I get up there?). Eliminating net neutrality means that the Religious Reich can walk roughshod over us as well as those who are seeking their own religious path. It was hard enough finding out about Wicca back in the 90's when we were just starting to come out of the broom closet and claim our rightful place as equals in this country, but just imagine how hard it is for many young people who are leaning in that direction and searching nowadays, especially if you live in an area that's even more repressive towards non-Christian beliefs today (such as certain parts of the South). For many Seekers, the Internet is literally their lifeline. If that's taken away because Wiccan/Pagan sites are allowed to be censored, then nothing good for genuine religious equality can come from that! Same goes for LGBTs, women seeking reproductive health c

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Jaime J
Jaime J11 months ago

Thank you!!

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Mike R
Mike R11 months ago

Thanks

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