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Meet The Iconics: Dae

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Meet The Iconics: Dae

Tuesday, June 11, 2022

Happy Pride! The Starfinder team would like to introduce you to our newest iconic character, Dae!

Dae (they/them)• is a sparkly celebrity from a free planet in the Veskarium, a nearby star system ruled by a warlike empire. Dae was born on Pulonis, the pahtra•• homeworld—a magical jungle world wracked by intense magnetic storms that degrade technology and bless the planet with spectacular aurora displays. Born last in a large litter from a remote agrarian village, Dae has always loved to make a dramatic entrance, and their birth was no exception.

A magnetic storm raged over Pulonis during Dae’s birth, and coils of lavender, rose, and golden light fractured the sky over their village in slow, chaotic waves, shutting down power in every household and scrambling comms as tech infrastructure suddenly failed—a disaster for a pahtra ending a long labor by delivering a runt the midwife thought might be stillborn.

Dae asked the old folks about it later, and they said the storm was Meyel tearing the sky apart as she danced for joy.Dae fought through the storm of the century alive, dragging a souvenir of the event with them: a tiny orb of starfire that blazed like a miniature sun.

full body illustration of iconic Solarian, Dae

Dae is a solarian. At the time of their birth, they miraculously manifested a stellar mote. At first, Dae’s family believed they’d imagined seeing it, as the mote was a speck and appeared for only a second; it was surely a trick of the light. Then the spark emerged when Dae cried out in hunger, or flared into being when the baby woke up alone in their cradle. Somehow, it could never be captured on video, even when everybody thought they had seen it.

Dae’s mote became more stable as they grew. Soon they learned how to command it, shaping it into armaments: a dazzling sword of starlight, a flaming ribbon, a shield made from the aurora they were born under. As Dae practiced forging their mote into new shapes, they discovered its attunement with gravitic energies. Cycling between these extremes helped them keep control of the reckless stunts they performed, using their mote as an anchor to keep balance or as a flashlight to see down dark tunnels.

Dae is a famous performer, and they have wanted to be seen from the moment they scrambled out into the world. From dancing to executing dangerous stunts and elaborate dramatic scenes, Dae has always been down for whatever it takes to draw a crowd. Showing off was always the norm for them (their aunties and littermates could tell you some wild stories), and they grew up performing at local cultural festivals and winning awards at regional talent shows.

For a long time, Dae uploaded their vids for a small but loyal following on local infospheres. Then serendipity—or Meyel herself—struck again: they met Miiyu, a pahtra celebrity pop star. Scrambling to dodge the paparazzi, Miiyu ducked into a local café, ran for the back door, and nearly smacked right into Dae, who was performing a stunt in the café’s back alley in view of their live-recording camera drone. After recovering, clocking the live feed, and seeing Dae’s dance moves, Miiyu invited them to costar in a music video. The video was a hit, and Dae later joined Miiyu as a backup dancer for her sold-out world tour.

Miiyu’s no-strings-attached endorsement boosted Dae’s career. But that was months ago, and Dae’s only just begun to shine. Next up, they want to see the galaxy outside the Veskarium. They’ve used their pay from Miiyu’s tour to book their own personal “tour” to the Pact Worlds system, starting with the space station at the center of the galaxy.

Now, Dae’s a rising star hoping to do fame their way. They’re not looking to line the pockets of some greedy exec or get tied down with fine print; they care about putting on a show and exploring the galaxy, which is why they vibe so well with Chk Chk. After meeting as interns working for the Starfinder Society, the pair became the best of friends. They’ve even traded friendship bracelets (Dae wears theirs every day) and have shared a mystical bond that lets them speak straight into each other’s minds (with permission).

Where will Dae go next? That’s up to you! Stay proud and playtest. <3

•Dae, like many pahtras•, is agender, a nonbinary gender identity that isn’t male or female. Dae uses they/them pronouns. So, when you see “they” and “them” used in place of gendered pronouns like “she” or “him” referring to Dae, that’s why.

Dae is an alien stellar knight and space pop star who doesn’t care what you think of their gender, but real people with agender and/or nonbinary identities do care if you maliciously misuse their pronouns or make fun of their gender expression, so please act in the spirit of fun and kindness when gaming with people in your community.

••Pahtras are bipedal felinoid aliens (they’re alien cat-people who walk on two legs) from Pulonis, a planet in the Veskarium whose people have been fighting a brutal war for independence from the vesk-run empire. Pulonis recently achieved freedom and joined the Pact Worlds, a federation of independent planets dedicated to maintaining peace and prosperity in the galaxy. The Veskarium is currently at war with the Azlanti Star Empire and has yet to retaliate against the former colony.

— The Starfinder Team
-Thurston Hillman, Managing Creative Director (Starfinder)
-Jenny Jarzabski, Senior Developer
-Jessica Catalan, Senior Developer (Starfinder Society)
-Dustin Knight, Developer
-Mike Kimmel, Developer

<!— tags: Starfinder, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Meet The Iconics, Evolutionist, —>

Tags: Meet the Iconics, Starfinder, Starfinder Roleplaying Game

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2 days ago
South Burlington, Vermont
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10 strongest fantasy heroes, ranked

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Henry Cavill as Superman

As soon as fiction began introducing absurdly powerful heroes, fans started needing to pit them against each other to determine who would win.

These battles take place in crossover scenarios that would likely never happen — even if only because that kind of defeats the purpose of them being the good guys. Still, here's the only ranking on the Internet that tells you with pinpoint accuracy who the most powerful hero in all of fiction is.

God of War
Image via Sony

10. Kratos

Kratos was always strong, but what made him powerful to the point of challenging the gods was a deal he made with one. He received immense power from Ares, but that power came with a blinding rage that cost Kratos everyone he loved. He set out to get revenge against one god but then ended up killing the entirety of Mount Olympus and pretty much every Norse God in existence.

The only argument you can have against Kratos from God Of War as being one of the most powerful characters in existence is the fact that he dies three times in his series. Then again, dying only really helps set him up to kick the ass of whoever's working as the warden of hell at that point and return even stronger, so maybe he really does belong on this list.

the Doom Slayer raising Hell in Hell
Image via Bethesda

9. Doom Slayer

The original DOOM games play like a horror movie where humans pay for messing with the wrong thing. The DOOM reboot from 2016 turns the tables and has the demon horde as the dumbasses that open the wrong sarcophagus and unleash something that they cannot deal with: the Doom Slayer.

The Doom Slayer is what the biggest and baddest demons in the DOOM universe see in their nightmares at 666 in the evening. He's like a version of Kratos who has guns and who can make use of interstellar travel to get close enough to perform a glory kill on any demonic entity in the universe. Also, he already spends most of his time in hell, so dying and being sent there would feel more like waking up from a nap than a proper respawn — not that he would die, anyway.

Asura's six arms in Asura's Wrath
Image via Capcom

8. Asura

Even though it's a tremendous game, Asura's Wrath doesn't ever play like a regular game. You play as a god here, and a true god doesn't care for the tiny zombies that Kratos and the Doom Guy need to kill in their respective games' early levels—unless there are a million of them at once.

Every level in Asura's Wrath is a set piece of enormous proportions where Asura has to go against Akuma, giants, entire fleets of combat spaceships, or even planet-sized gods. If the Doom Slayer is the sci-fi version of Kratos, then Asura is the anime version of Kratos, which naturally means he's at least an order of magnitude above in terms of power and wildness.

Kirby's Dream Buffet
Image by Nintendo

7. Kirby

Kirby's power level isn't immediately obvious, but he's a wildcard of such magnitude that you just cannot help but respect it. It's almost impossible to make a list of all his abilities because they make up new ones whenever a new Kirby game comes out, but he's basically able to eat anyone (or anything) and gain their powers.

If you want more clear proof of Kirby's power, just look at the trailer for Super Smash Bros. World Of Light. It shows Galeem, the god who controls the master hands, wiping out an entire galaxy — the galaxy where every character you've ever seen in SSMB lives — but failing to even put a bruise on Kirby. You don't mess with that kind of power.

Superman Fortnite
Screenshot via Destructoid

6. Superman

When not failing to fly through some hoops because of bad controls, Superman is your quintessential strong character. he's the character every comic book hero cribs from, whether they realize it or not.

Superman is SO strong, in fact, that it works against him. Many complaints from modern fans are that he's boring because there are so few instances when someone was able to present him with an interesting physical challenge.

Goku in ultra instinct
Image via Toei Animation

5. Goku

While kid Goku from the original Dragon Ball would likely take no more than one half-charged slap from Superman to explode and die, the same definitely doesn't apply to DBZ's Goku. I believe there's one point in Dragon Ball Z, likely the time when Goku first reaches SSJ, when Goku just leaves Superman in the dust and never returns.

I've read very detailed scientific number crunches detailing how Superman is actually stronger than Goku, but here's the thing: you've picked the only place where science doesn't matter. Frieza's weakest form was able to conjure enough energy to destroy a planet in one of his fingers, and Goku still slapped his final form silly.

Goku's biggest advantage? A genetic trait that makes him stronger whenever he gets beat. Do you know who also shares that genetic trait? Doomsday, the only creature who ever killed Superman, and it wasn't even powerful enough to destroy a planet with a finger gun.

Vegito as seen in Dragon Ball FighterZ.
Image via Bandai Namco

4. Vegito

I know Vegito is half-Goku, so that may invalidate his form for this tournament, but he's here to prove a point and also too strong for me to just push away.

Vegito, who is a fusion of Vegeta and Goku using the Potara Earrings, is significantly stronger than Goku alone. Even though no character in Dragon Ball Z can match up to him, he avoids becoming boring simply because the mix between Goku and Vegeta's personalities makes him too funny not to enjoy.

John Osterman in Mars
Image by DC

3. Dr. Manhattan

Dr. Manhattan's powers go well beyond those of mere strength. This is a being so powerful he can end or create life in an instant. He exists at the current moment but also in all moments. Dr. Manhattan is an omnipotent being above all beings, which might somehow make him the most human character in Watchmen.

His only weakness comes not from any imaginable lack of power but rather from having too much of it. By the time of Watchmen's event, Dr. Manhattan has gone so far past the line separating humans from deities that he no longer feels empathy for humankind.

Saitama readying up one punch
Image by Crunchyroll

2. Saitama

Impossibly powerful "gag" characters aren't a new thing —children and Reddit users come up with them every day. Still, It's not common for a gag character to get promoted to the main character role in a legit and spectacular anime.

Saitama feels like an alien even in the incredibly wild world of One Punch Man, as he goes through the suffering that a real human who's too good at his job would, but keeps the invulnerability that only a joke character would have. Though he's known for finishing off any enemy with one single punch, no aspect of Saitama is bound to any sort of power or ability ruleset, meaning that he'll always be more powerful than whatever enemy you put in front of him.

Herbie's quiet Saturday
Image by American Comics Group

1. Herbie Popnecker

The most powerful character on the list is, interestingly, the least famous one. Herbie Popnecker dates back to the '50s, and his powers are, well, pretty much all of them. He's capable of teleportation, but also he can just walk anywhere in the universe. Herbie is so strong he tends not to notice even when incredibly powerful beings are physically attempting to kill him. Also, he can communicate with animals, and ghosts are afraid of him.

I cannot say that this is the first godlike gag character in history, but he's at least the most influential one. If you love Saitama, which you should, know that he might only exist because of Herbie, and that's why he's not number one.

Don't agree with my pick for number one? Well, I only even know of Herbie because he's the favorite hero of Watchmen creator Alan Moore, so good luck taking it up with him.

The post 10 strongest fantasy heroes, ranked appeared first on Destructoid.

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26 days ago
South Burlington, Vermont
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The Many Lessons of Steve Albini

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Nearly 20 years ago, my high-school calculus teacher introduced me to a book that would, although I didn’t realize it at the time, permanently reframe the way I thought about music. Written by the journalist Michael Azerrad, Our Band Could Be Your Life was a study of the 1980s independent-music landscape—of bands that had unconsciously responded to the commercialism found on MTV and mainstream rock radio by going underground, and by getting very weird. The book introduced me to groups such as Black Flag, Dinosaur Jr., and the Replacements, the last of which had beer-drunk songwriting and electric punk-rock hooks that soon made it my favorite band. These groups never became traditionally successful, Azzerad explained, but their careers represented a romantic and uncompromising approach to making music, which could too easily become cheapened by external forces.

And, in fact, many of the bands in the book had attempted to move up a level by signing to major labels, only to hit an artificial ceiling once it became clear that they couldn’t look or sound a certain way. But some of them had not even attempted this—they had recognized, as their careers were taking shape, that their personal beliefs were permanently at odds with the idea of participating in a notoriously predatory and corporate music industry. Among them—and the group that left the strongest impression on me—was a band called Big Black. Big Black was, even by the standards of its contemporaries, particularly abrasive; its serrated riffs and pummeling drumbeats sounded like they’d been recorded on the floor of an automobile factory. And the band’s philosophical stances were just as belligerent as its sound: It was led by a guitarist and singer named Steve Albini who seemed to take particular joy in broadcasting how he thought artists should behave, and denigrating everyone who did not live up to his standards. As Azerrad put it, “This was a band with policies.” Proving its ideological commitment, Big Black broke up in 1987 right after its best record came out—partly because one of the members wanted to attend law school, and also because the band was becoming a little too popular, which meant it was attracting the wrong kind of fans.

Steve Albini, guitar, performs with Shellac at the Paradiso in Amsterdam, Netherlands on 12th February 1995
Steve Albini performs with Shellac in Amsterdam, Netherlands on February 12, 1995.

But Albini, who died yesterday at the age of 61 from a heart attack, did not stop making music. Over the next few decades, he continued to perform in his own bands and struck up a second career as a recording engineer (his preferred term, over producer), where he worked with hundreds of artists—among them Nirvana, the Pixies, PJ Harvey, Slint, Joanna Newsom, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, the Jesus Lizard, and many, many, many more. It’s no exaggeration to say that Albini changed the trajectory of rock music for the better. He was especially good at capturing an artist as though they were playing right in front of you, a product of chemistry and ability rather than studio-driven artifice, and hiring Albini became a way for bands to signal their interest in being “realer,” both in sound and in attitude. His own outlook was perhaps best crystallized in his 1993 essay for The Baffler, “The Problem With Music,” in which he meticulously sketched out all the reasons making music on a major label was a sucker’s game. This idea, and its attendant aesthetic principles, felt just as important as the records themselves; to a certain kind of listener, it sometimes seemed like Albini was the last honest musician in the industry, though he would’ve shaken his head at such mythologizing.

I feel confident saying this because, in the summer of 2022, I had the opportunity to profile Albini for The Guardian, and I interviewed him on multiple occasions in Chicago, where he spent most of his life. I did not approach this task lightly. Foremost was the fact that I had been listening to his music for the past 20 years and didn’t want to seem like some fawning kid. But Albini had also incurred a reputation for being personally combative—which is saying something, given that inveterate punk rockers are not always known for their social graces. Over the years, he’d become infamous for saying a tremendous number of insulting things about other people, including bands he’d worked with. (“Never have I seen four cows more anxious to be led around by their nose rings,” he once wrote about the Pixies.) He seemed terribly smart, and suspicious of any nonsense. This is a bit of a broad statement, but allow me to say it: Anyone who has spent time around people who are really into music has met the type of person who seems totally obstinate, and borderline caustic, about why the bands they like are better than the bands you like. These people can be pretty irritating—I don’t want to be yelled at just because I like some Taylor Swift songs—but they inspire a shard of dread that perhaps their obstinacy is justified, that they have latched onto some way of thinking about art that the rest of us are too dull to perceive.

From afar, Albini seemed like the final boss of this mindset. Yet the Guardian profile had been assigned because Albini, in recent years, had begun to soften some of his adversarial instincts, at least in public. He still got worked up about bands he hated (especially Steely Dan) and about right-wing politicians—but he had explicitly apologized for the numerous offensive things he’d said throughout his life, which included using racial slurs and denigrating women. “A lot of things I said and did from an ignorant position of comfort and privilege are clearly awful and I regret them,” he wrote in a 2021 Twitter thread that went viral. This felt notable because it’s become popular, in recent years, for people to complain about the rise of cancel culture and the shifting standards for public speech. In the past, Albini had always claimed that his offensiveness was attached to some underlying principle, no matter how arbitrary it seemed to others, but he’d since become suspicious of the people who reveled in offensiveness for its own sake. “When you realize that the dumbest person in the argument is on your side, that means you’re on the wrong side,” he had told me about recalibrating his feelings.

So this was one dimension of the Albini I met: a man who, although still razor-sharp and hilarious, was clear-eyed about why he felt he should shed some of these more reactive traits of his former self. “It’s me owning up to my role in a shift in culture that directly caused harm to people I’m sympathetic with, and people I want to be a comrade to,” he said of why he had decided to be open about his evolved thinking. When I published the story, quite a few readers, and particularly men of his generation, said they were personally inspired by Albini’s perspective and growth—that if someone with his cutting reputation could be this reflective, then perhaps nobody else had an excuse for staying rude.

Just as striking, to me, was the way he talked about his job. Earlier in his career, he had been more insistent about how a record should sound, and had freely offered his opinions in the studio. Over time, he sloughed off this tendency and became more comfortable with recording musicians as they were and as they wanted to be. His rates remained affordable, and he was always personally available to record a band; for a reasonable fee, a local artist could get the guy who’d laid down Kurt Cobain’s guitar on “All Apologies.” He relished working with musicians “beneath the professional level,” as he put it to me—people for whom making music was part of a necessary impulse rather than any means of getting rich or famous. He was decidedly not sentimental about the famous artists he’d worked with (though he got a little giddy when we talked about Iggy Pop and the Stooges, whose reunion record he’d recorded). Instead, it was the everyday work of going to his studio and producing physical evidence of a band’s existence—no matter how big or small—that mattered the most. His greatest contribution to music, Kim Deal of the Pixies told me while I was reporting for the profile, was “every single person who has walked through that door and been treated with respect about their ideas.”

Albini did too much to be neatly summarized in any profile; I didn’t have the space in mine to dive too deeply into his most recent band, Shellac, which in a terrible coincidence is releasing a new record next week. But as I drafted, two things kept coming back to me: The first was that Albini had been unafraid to own up to his past rather than wave it off or double down on his positions. The second was that he talked about music not as some expression of ego but as a creative practice worth maintaining because it enriched your life. To hear this—and in such an unpretentious way—was no small thing. This was not mere plate-spinning from a guy who liked to hear himself talk; these were tightly reasoned, directly stated beliefs that he’d stress-tested in his own life and were reflected in how he carried himself.

Unlike many of its peers, Big Black never really reunited, other than for a single performance at an anniversary show for its former record label. “I’m not a nostalgic person by nature,” Albini had told me. “I don’t think about the past very much.” I believed him, but one of my final questions was how he hoped his work would be regarded, should he have to retire tomorrow. I’ll reproduce his answer in full, because I was struck by it at the moment, and I feel heartened thinking about it now:

“I don’t give a shit. I’m doing it, and that’s what matters to me—the fact that I get to keep doing it, that’s the whole basis of it. I was doing it yesterday, I’m gonna do it tomorrow, and I’m gonna carry on doing it. Other people can figure out if they were happy about that, or not. I don’t care what they say; I’m doing it because I find value in it. I find value in being part of this culture, and preserving my peers’ artistic output. I find value in that, as my role: being the person responsible for making the record that someone will hear in 50 years to find out what some band sounded like. How will people know what our culture was like now, in 50 or 100 years? Well, they can read what survives the great digital void, and they can listen to what music survives. And I just want to make sure that I do a good job on the music that survives, you know?”

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35 days ago
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Hate Everything

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36 days ago
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36 days ago
Saint Paul, MN, USA
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t-sex is short for "tyrannosaurus sex", or "sex of the tyrant lizard" - an amazing prog rock album name if there ever was one

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March 6th, 2024next

March 6th, 2024: The trick is asking nicely!!

– Ryan

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99 days ago
South Burlington, Vermont
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Don’t Fall For The Latest Changes To The Dangerous Kids Online Safety Act

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The authors of the dangerous Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) unveiled an amended version last week, but it’s still an unconstitutional censorship bill that continues to empower state officials to target services and online content they do not like. We are asking everyone reading this to oppose this latest version, and to demand that their representatives oppose it—even if you have already done so. 

KOSA remains a dangerous bill that would allow the government to decide what types of information can be shared and read online by everyone. It would still require an enormous number of websites, apps, and online platforms to filter and block legal, and important, speech. It would almost certainly still result in age verification requirements. Some of its provisions have changed over time, and its latest changes are detailed below. But those improvements do not cure KOSA’s core First Amendment problems. Moreover, a close review shows that state attorneys general still have a great deal of power to target online services and speech they do not like, which we think will harm children seeking access to basic health information and a variety of other content that officials deem harmful to minors.  

We’ll dive into the details of KOSA’s latest changes, but first we want to remind everyone of the stakes. KOSA is still a censorship bill and it will still harm a large number of minors who have First Amendment rights to access lawful speech online. It will endanger young people and impede the rights of everyone who uses the platforms, services, and websites affected by the bill. Based on our previous analyses, statements by its authors and various interest groups, as well as the overall politicization of youth education and online activity, we believe the following groups—to name just a few—will be endangered:  

  • LGBTQ+ Youth will be at risk of having content, educational material, and their own online identities erased.  
  • Young people searching for sexual health and reproductive rights information will find their search results stymied. 
  • Teens and children in historically oppressed and marginalized groups will be unable to locate information about their history and shared experiences. 
  • Activist youth on either side of the aisle, such as those fighting for changes to climate laws, gun laws, or religious rights, will be siloed, and unable to advocate and connect on platforms.  
  • Young people seeking mental health help and information will be blocked from finding it, because even discussions of suicide, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders will be hidden from them. 
  • Teens hoping to combat the problem of addiction—either their own, or that of their friends, families, and neighbors, will not have the resources they need to do so.  
  • Any young person seeking truthful news or information that could be considered depressing will find it harder to educate themselves and engage in current events and honest discussion. 
  • Adults in any of these groups who are unwilling to share their identities will find themselves shunted onto a second-class internet alongside the young people who have been denied access to this information. 

What’s Changed in the Latest (2024) Version of KOSA 

In its impact, the latest version of KOSA is not meaningfully different from those previous versions. The “duty of care” censorship section remains in the bill, though modified as we will explain below. The latest version removes the authority of state attorneys general to sue or prosecute people for not complying with the “duty of care.” But KOSA still permits these state officials to enforce other part of the bill based on their political whims and we expect those officials to use this new law to the same censorious ends as they would have of previous versions. And the legal requirements of KOSA are still only possible for sites to safely follow if they restrict access to content based on age, effectively mandating age verification.   

KOSA is still a censorship bill and it will still harm a large number of minors

Duty of Care is Still a Duty of Censorship 

Previously, KOSA outlined a wide collection of harms to minors that platforms had a duty to prevent and mitigate through “the design and operation” of their product. This includes self-harm, suicide, eating disorders, substance abuse, and bullying, among others. This seemingly anodyne requirement—that apps and websites must take measures to prevent some truly awful things from happening—would have led to overbroad censorship on otherwise legal, important topics for everyone as we’ve explained before.  

The updated duty of care says that a platform shall “exercise reasonable care in the creation and implementation of any design feature” to prevent and mitigate those harms. The difference is subtle, and ultimately, unimportant. There is no case law defining what is “reasonable care” in this context. This language still means increased liability merely for hosting and distributing otherwise legal content that the government—in this case the FTC—claims is harmful.  

Design Feature Liability 

The bigger textual change is that the bill now includes a definition of a “design feature,” which the bill requires platforms to limit for minors. The “design feature” of products that could lead to liability is defined as: 

any feature or component of a covered platform that will encourage or increase the frequency, time spent, or activity of minors on the covered platform, or activity of minors on the covered platform. 

Design features include but are not limited to 

(A) infinite scrolling or auto play; 

(B) rewards for time spent on the platform; 

(C) notifications; 

(D) personalized recommendation systems; 

(E) in-game purchases; or 

(F) appearance altering filters. 

These design features are a mix of basic elements and those that may be used to keep visitors on a site or platform. There are several problems with this provision. First, it’s not clear when offering basic features that many users rely on, such as notifications, by itself creates a harm. But that points to the fundamental problem of this provision. KOSA is essentially trying to use features of a service as a proxy to create liability for speech online that the bill’s authors do not like. But the list of harmful designs shows that the legislators backing KOSA want to regulate online content, not just design.   

For example, if an online service presented an endless scroll of math problems for children to complete, or rewarded children with virtual stickers and other prizes for reading digital children’s books, would lawmakers consider those design features harmful? Of course not. Infinite scroll and autoplay are generally not a concern for legislators. It’s that these lawmakers do not likesome lawful content that is accessible via online service’s features. 

What KOSA tries to do here then is to launder restrictions on content that lawmakers do not like through liability for supposedly harmful “design features.” But the First Amendment still prohibits Congress from indirectly trying to censor lawful speech it disfavors.  

We shouldn’t kid ourselves that the latest version of KOSA will stop state officials from targeting vulnerable communities.

Allowing the government to ban content designs is a dangerous idea. If the FTC decided that direct messages, or encrypted messages, were leading to harm for minors—under this language they could bring an enforcement action against a platform that allowed users to send such messages. 

Regardless of whether we like infinite scroll or auto-play on platforms, these design features are protected by the First Amendment; just like the design features we do like. If the government tried to limit an online newspaper from using an infinite scroll feature or auto-playing videos, that case would be struck down. KOSA’s latest variant is no different.   

Attorneys General Can Still Use KOSA to Enact Political Agendas 

As we mentioned above, the enforcement available to attorneys general has been narrowed to no longer include the duty of care. But due to the rule of construction and the fact that attorneys general can still enforce other portions of KOSA, this is cold comfort. 

For example, it is true enough that the amendments to KOSA prohibit a state from targeting an online service based on claims that in hosting LGBTQ content that it violated KOSA’s duty of care. Yet that same official could use another provision of KOSA—which allows them to file suits based on failures in a platform’s design—to target the same content. The state attorney general could simply claim that they are not targeting the LGBTQ content, but rather the fact that the content was made available to minors via notifications, recommendations, or other features of a service. 

We shouldn’t kid ourselves that the latest version of KOSA will stop state officials from targeting vulnerable communities. And KOSA leaves all of the bill’s censorial powers with the FTC, a five-person commission nominated by the president. This still allows a small group of federal officials appointed by the President to decide what content is dangerous for young people. Placing this enforcement power with the FTC is still a First Amendment problem: no government official, state or federal, has the power to dictate by law what people can read online.  

The Long Fight Against KOSA Continues in 2024 

For two years now, EFF has laid out the clear arguments against this bill. KOSA creates liability if an online service fails to perfectly police a variety of content that the bill deems harmful to minors. Services have little room to make any mistakes if some content is later deemed harmful to minors and, as a result, are likely to restrict access to a broad spectrum of lawful speech, including information about health issues like eating disorders, drug addiction, and anxiety.  

The fight against KOSA has amassed an enormous coalition of people of all ages and all walks of life who know that censorship is not the right approach to protecting people online, and that the promise of the internet is one that must apply equally to everyone, regardless of age. Some of the people who have advocated against KOSA from day one have now graduated high school or college. But every time this bill returns, more people learn why we must stop it from becoming law.   

We cannot afford to allow the government to decide what information is available online. Please contact your representatives today to tell them to stop the Kids Online Safety Act from moving forward. 

Republished from the EFF’s Deeplinks blog.

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113 days ago
South Burlington, Vermont
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