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

56 comments

Jaime J
Jaime J8 days ago

Thank you!!

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Mike R
Mike R9 days ago

Thanks

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Mike R
Mike R9 days ago

Thanks

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Danuta Watola
Danuta W14 days ago

Thanks for sharing

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Janis K
Janis K17 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Sandra V
Sandra Vito18 days ago

Thanks

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Benjamin B
Benjamin B20 days ago

Great article

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Leo C
Leo C21 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Jerome S
Jerome S21 days ago

thanks

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Jerome S
Jerome S21 days ago

thanks

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