Youngkin Bans State Endorsements of Websites Targeted at Kids’ Sexuality That Do Not Require Parental Consent — WAPO Oobjects

by James C. Sherlock

The Washington Post editorial board, like its news pages, has stubbornly and selectively ignored a lot of big news:

  • the ongoing emergence of testimony under oath of whistleblowers recounting the IRS and Justice Department’s handling of all things Biden;
  • evidence like strings of single-purpose bank accounts used by and for current residents of the White House to launder and distribute to the family a great deal of foreign money; and
  • the collapse of Hunter Biden’s plea deal.

Such things do not rise to be the subjects of editorials. Except one on June 20 that was not a proud moment. The title:

Why Hunter Biden’s plea deal is justified

A quote from that editorial:

The outcome appears similar to what other defendants might have gotten for similar violations of the law.

Another editorial praised the Justice Department as “steeped in a tradition of political noninterference.” Seriously. They wrote that.

But the same board is in full dudgeon today about Glenn Youngkin taking “vital resources away from LGBTQ+ youth.” So, did he cut funding to some important program? Did he ban something?

No, he:

quietly authorized the removal of a resource page for LGBTQ+ youths on the Virginia Department of Health website.

“Quietly”? Clearly not.

But for very good reasons.

Of the 11 “resources” removed from state sponsorship when the page was taken down, at least two of them, Queer Kid Stuff and Q Chat Space, do not require parental permission to use.

No mention is made of compliance or lack of compliance of those websites with the Children’s Online Privacy Act (COPPA) or the FTC rule that enforces it.

But one thing is undeniably true.

Nothing about those websites indicates that the Virginia Department of Health, not having control of content, should offer them its ongoing endorsement.

The editorial board is clear that it is sad or outraged or something by the removal from state sponsorship of eleven websites. It dismisses as strange any gubernatorial concern about the parental permission issue.

It cites:

the unfortunate reality is that parents are not always nurturing of their LGBTQ+ children.

It opines that:

LGBTQ+ kids who are not supported by their families are extremely vulnerable to experiencing homelessness.

Thus the removal of the state web page, and the governor, are linked by the WAPO to homelessness. Nice touch.

They manage simultaneously:

  • to deplore kids going online to get their information; and
  • to deplore the Virginia government for no longer endorsing a specific collection of websites for the convenience of kids going online to get their information about sex.

They write that “LGBTQ+ youths need these resources,” pretending for purposes of outrage that young people cannot find them with a browser if the Commonwealth of Virginia does not offer a list on its Department of Health web page.

It is perhaps necessary to the outrage for the WAPO to offer an unspoken assumption that youth would even know to look on the Virginia Department of Health website to find their “resources.”

It would be interesting to know, which The Washington Post either did not discover in its FOIA request or chose not to publish the results, how many hits that web page had in its history.

Most importantly, the editorial board ignores the COPPA rule on obtaining verifiable parental consent:

Obtaining verifiable consent means making any reasonable effort (taking into consideration available technology) to ensure that before personal information is collected from a child, a parent of the child

(1) Receives notice of the operator’s personal information collection, use, and disclosure practices; and

(2) Authorizes any collection, use, and/or disclosure of the personal information.

That rule is there in acknowledgement of the fact that cookies exist to track users and that email addresses are marketed on the dark web.

So questions arise:

  1. Did the Virginia Department of Health know that the websites it endorsed were in COPPA compliance when it posted them on its website?
  2. Did it monitor them to know that they remain in compliance?

The answer to at least the second question is almost assuredly no.

Finally, the WAPO ignores the fact that the state is potentially liable, in fact if not in law, for any bad outcomes from child engagement with commercial websites the state recommends.

Bottom line. The governor did the right thing.

It is stupid and dangerous for a state to lend its credibility to any commercial website, especially for children. For the simple reason that the state does not control content or policy.

Any other commercial website browsing recommendations, especially for children, should be purged from the all of the Commonwealth’s web pages.

I will waste some advice to The Washington Post: Selective outrage should be more selective.