The Gatekeepers: Net Neutrality and The Fight Over Who Decides What You See Online - Securing Sexuality Podcast Episode 26
Securing Sexuality is the podcast and conference promoting sex positive, science based, and secure interpersonal relationships. We give people tips for safer sex in a digital age. We help sextech innovators and toy designers produce safer products. And we educate mental health and medical professionals on these topics so they can better advise their clients. Securing Sexuality provides sex therapists with continuing education (CEs) for AASECT, SSTAR, and SASH around cyber sexuality and social media, and more.
Links from this week’s episode:
Understanding the Impact of Net Neutrality; Access to Information, Role of Language Justice in Media Representation, Impact of ADA Amendments on Disability Rights, Open Access Classes for Sex Professionals, Doxing Prevention, Safety Planning
In today's digital age, our lives are increasingly intertwined with the internet and its associated technologies. This has created a new set of challenges for individuals when it comes to protecting their sexuality in an online environment.
To ensure that individuals can safely and securely express their sexuality online, media literacy and net neutrality are essential components of any strategy for safeguarding sexual expression in a digital age. Media literacy is the ability to understand, analyze, evaluate, and create media messages in various forms. It is an important tool for understanding how media messages shape our perceptions of gender roles, sexual identities, and other aspects of our lives.
By developing media literacy skills, individuals can become more aware of how they are being represented in the media and how these representations may be influencing their own views on sexuality.
Additionally, by understanding how different types of media portray different aspects of sexuality—such as gender roles or body image—individuals can make more informed decisions about which types of content they choose to consume or share online. Net neutrality is another important factor when it comes to protecting sexual expression online. Net neutrality ensures that all internet traffic is treated equally regardless of its source or destination.
This means that ISPs (Internet Search Providers) cannot block or slow down certain types of content based on its source or destination—including content related to sexuality—and must treat all data equally regardless of what type it is or where it originated from.
Without net neutrality protections in place, ISPs could potentially limit access to certain types of content related to sexuality—such as websites promoting LGBTQ+ rights or information about safe sex practices—which could have a negative impact on individuals' ability to express themselves sexually online without fear of censorship or discrimination from their ISP provider. Overall, both media literacy and net neutrality play an important role in securing sexual expression in a digital age by providing individuals with the tools they need to make informed decisions about what type of content they consume and share online while also ensuring that ISPs cannot discriminate against certain types of data based on its source or destination.
By developing these two skill sets together, individuals can ensure that they have the necessary tools needed for safely expressing themselves sexually without fear censorship from their ISP provider while also becoming more aware about how different types of media portray different aspects related to sexuality such as gender roles or body image expectations which can help them make better decisions about what type content they choose consume online going forward.
Hello and welcome to Securing Sexuality, the podcast where we discuss the intersection of intimacy and information security. I'm Wolf Goerlich.
He's a hacker and I'm Stefani Goerlich. She's a sex therapist and together we're going to discuss what safe sex looks like in a digital age.
Today, I'm so excited to be talking about Net Neutrality with Bianca Laureano. Bianca is an award-winning educator, curriculum writer, facilitator, sexologist. She's the Foundress of Women of Color Sexual Health Network, Anti-Up Virtual Freedom Professional Development School for Justice Workers and she wrote the curriculum for Netflix's film Crip Camp.
Bianca, it is so good to have you with us. Thank you. Thank you. I'm excited to be here to talk with y'all. We reached out to you because of Net Neutrality.
Now, I have a very technologist view of Net Neutrality. So I'd love to hear from your perspective.
What is it and how would you define it?
Yeah, Net Neutrality has been around for decades and I want to be honest that I came to it about 15 years ago. And it was through attending the Allied Media Conference, which still happens in Michigan, just outside of Detroit. And it was an intergenerational space of young people, elders, people who are unaffiliated with like an institution or organization, who were really wanting to create more equitable media content and outcomes for people.
So that's what I learned about it, primarily from young people who were creating their own radio shows.
And immediately I was like, why should I care about this topic?
I am not a tech person. I know very little. I know how to edit a Wikipedia page, but I don't know much about HTML. Like I made a big story about it, which wasn't accurate necessarily. And so Net Neutrality, once I learned about it and it corrected some of that misunderstanding, it really changed my life and has become a really core value for me.
So Net Neutrality in short is really a free and open internet, access to information, not being censored around the content that we get to access. And that became really important to me in the probably early 2000s, but it was important to me in 1996, when I finally was able to have a computer of my own and get the internet and it was still kind of dial up. I grew up without an internet.
I remember a world without one. I also did a lot of work around media and all of the classes and curriculum that I taught. And so I was kind of shocked that none of my training incorporated any understanding of the internet or of Net Neutrality.
For me, other words that are synonymous with that are phrases, are open access. So this idea that we should be able to find that journal article that so-and-so wrote three years ago during the pandemic and be able to access it and read it.
And yeah, it's been around for decades and it's been a conversation primarily in tech and communication communities and also tech brought that in. And it just has such a rich history. So my history brain really ignited when I was like, wow, all this stuff is coming together and impacting my life and whether or not I get to access YouTube or the internet while I'm teaching this class.
And I relate so hard to your statement of like, I'm not a technologist, I'm not a coder.
Why do I need to know about this?
Because that is the foundation of probably 80% of the conversations Wolf and I have. Because he's so excited about all things tech and I'm a mental health provider and I'm a sexologist.
And that intersection of why do we need to care about this?
Why are these issues relevant is exactly what led to this podcast, right?
And to the conference and everything else we do.
And so I would love if you could tell me how does net neutrality impact public health and the sexuality field?
Yeah, I think what we're witnessing right now, I'll just pick on COVID because we're still in it.
The ways that we're getting and acquiring information about COVID, whether it be from the CDC or the people's CDC, the fact that I can now talk about two different CDC approaches, right?
One of the federal national organizations that people understand, and then one that the people created because they didn't like the way that this government and agency was giving us information.
Those modes of communication all came through social media and the internet, where people who are experiencing like long COVID infections, or people who are immunocompromised by themselves or disabled community, were able to organize and create a movement around here is how we can publicly come together and make sure that we keep us safe because our government is not doing that for us.
So I think these are two really beautiful ways of understanding what is the messaging that we've received around health content. And then also looking at it, so I'm in California, and so it was a really particular response to COVID. We're on the West Coast, we saw it coming in early February from across the ocean.
And also what did the state do that was helpful early on?
But I think what we're also noticing during these past several years is how monkeypox also had a really particular response in California.
And how is information shared about this new experience and infection?
And also how did queer and trans community mobilize just as we did in the 80s and the 90s around HIV and AIDS and equitable access to care lead to the queer and trans community being like, you know what, we got to keep ourselves safe. We know we lost our friends and family members.
So let's pause, let's get this vaccine, and let's make sure none of us get any long term impactful experiences or experience death.
And I have not heard about monkeypox for a while now, right?
And I think it's because people communicated, they were like, this is what we know about how viruses work, and we're going to care about each other. And so it's this really beautiful example for me about how our communities come together and how movement is bubbling up and being created online and across water waves and airwaves that sometimes people don't always connect. But so there's that part.
And then also as an immunocompromised person, finding community online has really been one of the main ways that I've been able to stay connected to people. Having a pretty strict COVID protocol has been hard to maintain when we're outside of our home. But I can meet with people inside my home in other parts in other parts of the world. So it keeps us connected, we learn a lot from each other.
And I think it's a really essential part of so many of our lives. And I'm definitely talking in a very US centric way. And even in the US, not everybody has access to the internet, which is another component of net neutrality, is making sure that people can access the internet.
And I think the pandemic reminded us of this too, especially when children were going to zoom school and not able to do homework or able to access the zoom room or how our teachers weren't able to do that either or find a quiet space to teach a lesson or have three kids who are all in three different classes.
All of that really complicated the way that we work from home, we train and educate our children and the way that we support each other. And so those are really core elements to me about a public health approach. And I think now we have this new work from home culture that has expanded, but also added another layer of surveillance into our lives.
And that is a little scary, but also it's kind of like the postmodern part of it, right?
Like more money, more problems, more access to internet. Sometimes people think that's more problems.
But yeah, so surveillance and how that's impacted our relationships, I think also connects back to what sex therapists and sex educators are doing around helping people stay connected and also helping people detangle other pieces that have crept into their relationship that they didn't really think should be there.
Like reading your partner's phone and seeing who they're engaging with online or creating an Instagram or a TikTok page and only thinking that it's going to reach a certain group of people. And we can just go on and on about the public health impact, especially for sex professionals. So it's funny you bring that up because securing sexuality itself has been banned from advertising on Instagram and by extension Facebook.
And as a writer was told I was going to have a really hard time getting an agent and getting a publisher because I don't have tens of thousands of followers on social media. And I told everybody that I talked to that the reason why I don't or perhaps won't is because my entire mission as a clinician is destigmatization and normalization.
And if I have to censor the words that I use, that is antithetical to normalizing and destigmatizing. So I have always just kind of accepted that my personal reach is going to be somewhat limited and thankfully I found an amazing agent and amazing publishers that support my work and took me on even though I had a whole baby 3000 followers on Twitter before Elon ruined it.
But just this week, I believe it was this week, the Center for Intimacy Justice said that they convinced Metta to rewrite its ads policy. So I'm super excited that maybe this might be changing in the near future. Metta says that advertisers can run ads that promote sexual health and wellness and reproductive products and services now.
So maybe, maybe in the near future, we won't have to put an asterisk in the middle of sex or replace our E's with threes and securing sexuality. But it's really fascinating the censorship that everybody in our field talks about and is frustrated by and we don't connect that to net neutrality.
Absolutely, and I think this is one of those gaps where, you know, I just stumbled upon net neutrality because I went to a media conference and of course it fits in there. I had no idea about it, none whatsoever. And I was in my 30s, like I literally was 30 years old, learned about net neutrality. I'd been online already for at least a decade.
And so there's a disconnect with taking the message of net neutrality, the reality of it, the need for it and connecting it with everyday regular people like you and I. And for whatever reason, it's not connecting. I don't have any brilliant ideas about how to do that, but once I learned about it and it rocked my world, I was like, I'm incorporating this in everything I do.
There's just no way that I can't anymore. Now that I know it, I can't go back.
And, you know, I say that as someone who also have a lot of altars in my home to our ancestors, Aaron Schwartz is one of my ancestors now. And so for people who don't know who Aaron Schwartz is, Aaron Schwartz was a young Jewish man in Brooklyn who, for lack of a better word, go look him up on the interwebs if you can.
He liberated from MIT the whole JSTOR archive and was like, we should all be able to access all this stuff. And it became a federal case against him simply for, I mean, I say this now in 2023, simply, but it was a revolutionary thing for someone to be like, you know what, we should be able to access all these online journals. It was seen as a form of theft.
And literally all he did was walk on campus and plug into the internet and just start doing whatever you need to do. And unfortunately, because of that federal crime, where he was threatened to get decades and decades incarcerated, he chose suicide and was successful, unfortunately.
Young, young man, I think he was maybe like 22 or 23. And so people like that are the ones that I learned about what does revolutionary love look like, even though that was from fear. He made a decision.
So for my community, there's like this little meme of like a crew of like rappers who are just standing and, you know, having like a little stance, staring at the camera and they're all like, we show up for Aaron Schwartz. Like Aaron Schwartz is our homeboy. And that's really how I feel. Let's really have a community of people who are not in like a communications field.
He really is someone that really shook the table. We're being threatened for doing some very simple things like giving people access. And that should give us a really important reminder of how revolutionary it is for things like plain language, for things like marketing. We just have the Super Bowl, where some people just watched it for the commercials or the Rihanna concert or whatever.
All of that is so important to the work that we do and also important to us in the ways that we're building and creating culture together. It is and also the access I think is so important. So in the 90s and early 2000s, when a lot of email services got gobbled up by corporations, so many hackers and my friends and colleagues stood up email servers.
I had an email server for my home for a long time. I am hearing more and more often since net neutrality got rolled back in 2017, that those email services are being blocked. They won't deliver. Stefani alluded to a social media site. When that happened, a lot of people stood up mastodon from their own home.
What if I owned my own social media and had direct access?
And again, with net neutrality being the way it is, some internet service providers moved to block them and prevent them. Completely agree with you about information sharing, but also I think it's just the ability for us to connect with the internet without having to go through a corporation, without having to go through a filter, without having to have an algorithm decide what is important and what's valued. Absolutely.
And it's this reminder of how capitalism, the profit, is so woven into the work that we do and also how deeply, you know, so I too am excited about what the Center for Intimacy Justice has created. I'm like us as individuals, we're not going to see that roll back for us yet because it's probably going to start with the people who have money to pay for marketing.
It's going to start with like the sex toy companies. It's going to start with maybe even OnlyFans, those kinds of entities that actually have the money. It's not going to be you and me who have maybe a couple thousand dollars or a hundred dollars, maybe no dollars to do some marketing on any meta platform.
So I think there's that other element of who gets seniority and priority and it's usually going to be the people who have the most money, which is one of the other components of media literacy. Net neutrality around thinking about what and who is deemed worthy enough to gain access. And net neutrality says, you know what, we shouldn't even play that hierarchical game. We should just start with like an even playing field.
Anything that might sound a little bit like meritocracy where people assume there's even playing field. The only thing is there isn't. If we know that we're still being blocked, all of that is still going to be an issue. And we see it today, right, which goes back to these laws about obscenity and what is considered obscene or lewd. It's always going to be the work that we do.
Even if we're talking about joyful relationships and how to maintain them and what's a platonic romantic relationship, even if we're talking about things that have nothing to do with what this country deems obscene or inappropriate, we're still being targeted in a really particular way because there is going to be that hierarchy. They call it an algorithm.
So the words are changing, right?
But if we're staying on top of what's happening and are clear and asking questions in a really particular way, we're going to understand, oh, this language, it's shifting and it's changing.
How is it going to directly impact me at the end of the day?
So I'd love to be able to see more of those contents and even ads. I want ads directed towards me and the work that I do.
I don't need like a plumbing pipe or whatever, right?
And that's a very meta thing to promote certain things based on how they're tracking you.
Again, the surveillance piece. So in addition to the surveillance, I want to bring in another topic I know you're very passionate about, and that is the way we trust online content. So one of the things that infuriated me about net neutrality being rolled back in 2017 is after so many polls being online, people say, no, we support this.
Suddenly there was a poll online and lots of comments saying that they supported rolling it back.
And I'm like, wow, how did this shift?
How did this change?
Where did the sea change come in?
And it was recently uncovered by some good reporting by Wired that there were some 8.5 million, million fake comments that were paid for, not going to say who, but that were paid for to support the FCC reversal of net neutrality. So this idea of grassroots was really not grassroots at all. It was an online influence campaign.
Talk to us about how can we determine trusted content?
How can we determine what's real?
Identifying trustworthy sources. The internet is going to be a part of our lives for the rest of our lives as long as we use the internet. So I usually want to offer people a range of different options to choose from. So this is not to say that this is the best thing to do ever.
It's just what I've found works for me and helps me weave out certain things that I don't want to be around or that I know is not going to work for me. So the first thing that I do is I encourage people to look at the web address.
Is there an S after the HTTP?
If it's not, that tells us that it may not be a secure server. And this is a very basic conversation. I'm having this conversation for people who don't know what a VPN is, who don't understand what the dark web really is. So I just want to say that as a preface.
So what is a secured website?
Is that even happening for what you're doing?
Are you going to put your information there?
The second one is, do they have pop-ups?
And are they asking you to fill something out in order to access the rest of what you're looking for?
That, to me, is a no-no. And unfortunately, that comes up for places like the New York Times, where they have a paywall, and other places similar that want to get your information and put it in a bank somewhere and contact you in the future. I say no to those things. Those are immediate turnoffs.
Unfortunately, this is what has happened with media, where the media that you actually may want, where the quote unquote truth may be that you want of an unbiased reporting for you to make a decision on what's the truth, it may have a paywall pop-up. I do believe that there's enough resources online. I'm glad you mentioned Wired earlier, that you should not have to pay to do that.
Other places like the Daily Beast do paywalls. So if there's a paywall, think about what information you want to give them.
Which email address do you want them to contact you at?
I think everybody now, if you don't, I encourage people to get an email address just for junk meal, just to get those kinds of emails. I know I sign up for stuff all the time. I sign up for people's newsletters, but I don't really read them. But I have my newsletter email where I can get them.
Other things would be to look at the community agreements or the about us section about a website. And this is where for a lot of the young people that I've worked with or when I was teaching, they are wanting to use websites now as like a primary source.
And so helping them understand is it accurate?
Why is Wikipedia not a primary source within a higher education construct?
But also, how do you follow the citations on Wikipedia being an important component to really understand who is behind this and what are their values that are promoting this particular space will show up in the about us section. It is also about reading the words carefully. And this is a conversation that I have with people and language is going to be alive and changing all the time.
But one of the ways that when I was being trained to support people seeking abortions is to notice the red flags in the language that people use when they call a pregnant person a mother or when they already project that title onto someone who's seeking an abortion or when they call a fetus or embryo a baby. These are alarmist terms that pop up for like crisis pregnancy centers.
And so they give misinformation. Crisis pregnancy centers have websites. There's almost three times more of them than there are actual abortions and centers to support people seeking abortion. And it is a really traumatic experience for someone who really wants to seek care and support that's compassionate and they're tricked and lied to, their body autonomy violated.
And speaking of stacking the deck, there have been states that have tried to pass laws requiring them to put signs in their window saying we are a crisis pregnancy center. We do not offer abortion care services or information. And they thought that as compelled speech and won. So there is absolutely no legal requirement to tell you the truth.
Fox News has argued in court that they aren't obligated to tell the truth because they're entertainment. Crisis pregnancy centers are not obligated to tell you what they do because that's compelled speech.
And so the media literacy piece, I love you mentioning specific words, right?
Being able to recognize those dog whistles or those community differences to be kinder about it is really important. I want to hear you talk about that. But before I ask, I want to say or I wanted to say that when it comes to paywalls, I have discovered 12 foot ladder as a new resource and I love them so much. So they don't work for every website.
But for most paywalled websites, you can copy the link from your browser, you can go to 12 foot ladder, you can put the link in and they will show you the article without putting your information to the paywall. So that is one of the more recent sort of personal privacy hacks that I've learned. That's about the extent of my media literacy. So talk to me about the importance of media literacy.
So media literacy is an educational pedagogical approach that's been around for maybe 40 years now, definitely at least 30. It was created by educators who were like, you know what, our young people are being bombarded with information and are they really understanding what's being directed at them and what they're consuming on a regular basis.
And it was created by a group of people who wanted to establish an approach that helped young people become more critical and understanding the media they're exposed to, becoming more critical thinkers. I learned about it from MediaLit.org, which is an organization that's still around. You can read a little bit more about media literacy from some of the architects there.
Elizabeth Thoman is the person that I always cite as helping me learn about media literacy. She's one of the first people that I read from. And it was one of my friends, a homegirl, Sophia, who was creating films. And she's like, I need help marketing this film and doing stuff with it when you help. And she gave me this article. And media literacy basically says, we can do this.
All of us need it. And the language, again, the language back then was different. They use words like media diet. I never say that today. Right. But they really are saying, we want you to be critical about the media that you're choosing to consume on a regular basis and think about it.
And what media literacy did was in order to do that, they had five guiding questions that really encouraged us to think about who created this.
So who are the people that put this media together?
What do we understand about them?
What can we find out about them?
The second thing is what values are being promoted in this type of media, because media is constructed. It's not like just an organic thing that emerges. So we have to understand that. And that's not bad. Something being constructed isn't a bad thing. It just is a fact.
So thinking about what goes on with the people's brains who are putting the things together, what do we know about them?
And then also, there's going to be something they're going to be promoting.
So if media is for profit, usually, or to send a particular message, what are the values that they're trying to promote?
And so we think about that in a variety of different ways, not just with script and colors, but location.
So if we're looking for a billboard, where can we find a particular newspaper?
Where are we going to be able to access a Wi-Fi hotspot?
Thinking about those as examples of what values are being created here are really important.
The third question invites us to think about what are the techniques that are used to capture our attention?
So keeping in mind that language and grammar and syntax, there are rules to those in language in a particular way.
But it also invites us to think about, oh, if I'm watching a movie or watching a commercial, what's the songs that are being used?
How is music being played?
Is it totally quiet?
Is it trying to invoke a response from me?
So that would be the third question.
The fourth one would be, how are people understanding this media differently from myself?
So it recognizes that we can all sit here and watch the same exact commercial or read the same exact book or hear the same exact song, but have a completely different response to it or experience of it.
And so it invites us to add a little bit of social-emotional competency to what we're doing so we can say, oh, you know what?
I don't want my friends to hear the song because it embarrasses me because it uses whatever, profane language, or maybe it uses esoteric words that may be hurtful for my friend to hear.
And then the fifth one is what is missing, right?
Because media can't check off all the lists that we want of being a perfect form of media. People are going to be left out. Topics are going to be left out. So being clear about, oh, this commercial about this person running for whatever office, it's omitted the reality that they vote this way, or it's omitted that they approve this to ban all these books from the library.
And we've got to be really thoughtful and be clear about what is missing from some of these promotional pieces.
But it also invites us to think about what would it look like for us to create media?
What would we do if we had the possibility to create media?
So I always like to encourage people to have a more expansive understanding and definition of media. It's not just about moving pictures. It's not just about font sizes. It's about communicating a message. And so that could be a t-shirt that you wear. It could be makeup. It could be the way that you present yourself to the world. It could be the short film that you write, the poem that you create.
It can be so many different things. The dance that you post online, all of those are forms of media. And when we shift the lens of, oh, I'm just a recipient and put it into the point of, I'm a participant now. I'm wearing my abortion on demand t-shirt, or I'm wearing my whatever, Black Lives Matter t-shirt. That's sending a message in a society that doesn't always agree with some of those messages.
And I think once we begin to activate and work that skill, it becomes a lot easier to make a decision about what's a trusted resource online. It makes it easier to decide, am I going to use this emoji when I spell out sex to replace the E, or I'm going to try to spell it phonetically in a different way. All of those are decisions that we make.
And it also helps me understand that, oh, I can access this free, conservative, anti-sex approach easily and without a barrier on the internet. And I can figure that out if I go to the About page or read a couple of sentences. I can immediately see the lies are free. The lies are free and accessible online.
And so I have to figure out, using my media literacy skills, how is this not in alignment with what I want to find?
And therefore, I'm not going to cite it. I think those are really important components for me in my everyday life. This is one of the things I do. I teach an abortion class, because it's wild to me that you don't have to take any classes on abortion to become a certified sex anything.
So I teach a class on abortion, and this class is the one that I update the most, because there's so much misinformation. There's so much change happening. There's so many different laws that are being introduced and courts making different decisions. So being able to guide people in understanding this is not a resource you want to use, or this one may be. And it's complicated, but it's also about being critical.
What did the Guttmacher Institute not do when presenting this fact sheet?
What is missing here?
Those are really important components for all of us, I think, as we read research, publishing research, data sets. That is media as well. So I take a really radical view of media, because it just really impacts the work that we do.
Stefani, you're a media maker. You write books. You tell stories. So in that way, that's in alignment with what I believe is the form of media justice, us creating the media. That's in alignment with our values and making sure that people have access to them in a variety of different ways. And so maybe that means that you're going to be fine with someone downloading your book here and there.
Maybe it means you're not going to be fine with that.
But you want to make sure that your book is in the library. That is a form of media justice. Libraries do really important information.
And when I talk with librarians, a big question that they have is, what do we do about people coming to the library and watching porn?
Which is a beautiful question, because what they're saying in that question is we're choosing not to block certain websites. We should be able to come to the library and get what they need. But maybe they shouldn't watch porn in public.
And what do we do?
How do we approach that person?
What rules should we have?
What's the consequence?
And these are real life scenarios. So that's a long answer to what is media literacy, but I like giving a little bit of examples of how it shows up in my everyday life and the work that we do. I like that you brought up the library. I'm going to be speaking at a library conference in Detroit here in a few months.
And one of the things we're going to be having is a lot of these conversations.
How do you provide security while you provide access?
And another thing I heard you say there, I like that phrase media justice, because with neutrality, as long as net neutrality is not enforced.
And again, at the time of recording this, it's not even though Biden has issued an executive order to reverse the 2017 decision, still not being enforced. That means just like any bakery can decide I'm not baking a cake for that person, any internet service provider can decide I'm not carrying that information, that message, that advocacy for that person.
I want to use the word scary if like scary is alarmist for people who are talking about a topic, but it can get really scary and sticky.
Because we talk about this reversal, this is something that's been going on since like the Bush administration, where people have been reversing going back and forth around net neutrality and whether or not the FCC or the Supreme Court should make a decision about A, B or C. And really what it comes down to is who gets to make decisions and choices.
And to me, I'm like, this should be a bipartisan topic. Net neutrality should just be bipartisan.
And when it's not, that's when we need to be like, oh, why?
Who says what?
Who is on which side?
Why is access to information such a scary consideration for certain groups?
And why do they think our internet service providers get to charge us $150 to get the most basic access to get online?
And then if you're like, what, that's what it costs. When I lived in Oakland, that's how much our internet cost. I moved to a different city in California. I get internet cable, like all the cable channels. I'm at cable over a decade for $50. This is what I mean by net neutrality is essential to the way that we can access the internet.
I'm saving like $100 every month just because I changed my zip code. When we talk about visibility, we talk about advocacy. Two weeks ago, Wolf and I talked about the books getting pulled out of classrooms and libraries in Florida. And we talked about how stigma inevitably leads to censorship because you can't sort people into good and bad and visible and not and included or excluded without inevitably censoring them.
And if you don't see yourself represented, you are losing out on so many possibilities. You lose out on the ability to imagine yourself doing great things because you don't see yourself represented in media doing great things. As a person who has disabilities, I was born congenitally single side deaf and have other things going on. I love the work that you've done around visibility for people with disabilities.
And I would love to hear how net neutrality, how media literacy, how all of these things kind of come together in your work with Netflix on Crip Camp.
Yeah, absolutely. So for people who don't know, Crip Camp is a documentary. It was nominated for an Oscar and it lost to my octopus teacher.
Yes, anyways, but it was the first time that the Oscars had an accessible stage with a ramp for people to gain access. And it's the story of the disability rights movement in the United States. It's available for free on YouTube. You can stream it there if you need to. It comes on with captions as well. And it's in like, I don't know, 54 different languages on Netflix still.
It really highlights who are the still living members who were part of creating a disability rights movement that led to the Americans with Disabilities Act. And so it's a beautiful archival footage, interviews with people, and so I was reached out to by the impact producers at the time, Andre Levant and Stacey Park Milburn, who have been in community with Stacey and I have been homegirls for like over 15 years.
Both are disabled women and femmes and Stacey's queer and wheelchair users as well. And they were like, we need a curriculum and we need people who understand disability. Because right now the people working on this are not necessarily understanding what it means to be a disabled child at school. And we really want this to get into the school system.
And we want people to start talking about the Americans with Disabilities Act in school. So and you can imagine why. Disabled kids never see themselves represented in anything, in any way in school content or curricula. So we had to watch the movie and there's big chunks that are missing in my opinion in the film. One of the big things that stood out to me was that there's no Black women talking.
But we see them at the 504 sit-in and some of the main people who are on a fast.
Why don't we hear from them?
What does that mean when we see them but they're omitted?
And so we told the team, we're like, that's the perspective we want to bring in. We're going to use media literacy skills. We also are going to align this to the Common Core State Standard for English language arts. We can get it into the school system. And they said, great, do it. Let's see what happens. And you know, it was complicated, but also really exciting.
And so all the curricula and the discussion guides are free. You can go on cripcamp.com backslash curriculum, download them. Language justice was really important to the team that I pulled together. So it's in English and Spanish because those are conversations that we need to be having across language and communities.
And so the first lesson is what is media?
What is media literacy?
What are we watching?
We watch a documentary.
And then moving into like, what is the civil right?
What does it mean to gain a right in 1990?
But also it invites us to think about who was excluded when the ADA was signed in 1990. It was considered bipartisan, which means none of the parties argued too much about signing it into law, which is why I'm arguing net neutrality should also be bipartisan.
However, the ADA, when it was signed into law in 1990, excluded people living with HIV and AIDS diagnosis. We knew exactly who was dying in 1990. We know exactly which communities were dying. And so the ADA was signed knowing that it only protected a certain group of people. And it wasn't until almost 20 years later with the amendment in 2008 that the ADA expanded to include people with a range of other autoimmune and immunodifficiencies.
So it's heartbreaking to know that reality and to know that there's plenty of people in our communities that we could have sustained a little bit longer on the planet because it's the future. We live now in a world where PrEP and PEP are a thing. And the ADA is probably what's kept you and me alive as disabled people. So I appreciate it.
And I also get to critique it because that is what net neutrality is about. I get to find the information, put it together, and make my own consideration about what this means.
And it brings me a lot of joy, but it also is scary because I think about like, would this be a curriculum that people would not welcome in because we talk about civil rights, because we talk about how the Black Panther Party brought food to the people in the sit-ins?
Like this is the stuff that nobody wants you to hear about in Florida or in other places because now, ooh, it's talking about race. That's bad. You can't separate them. You can't separate one identity from other identities. Say one of my all-time favorite sort of slogans, quotes, expressions, you know, no one is free where others are oppressed. We can't ignore race in order to focus on disability.
We can't ignore disability to focus on race. I know that this is not a disability topic for the podcast, but I want to share for our listeners who might not understand necessarily the impact before and after the ADA. I am a Gen Xer. I was in grade school in the 80s, and I'm congenitally deaf. There is no fixing it. There's no hearing aid that will magically give me an inner ear structure.
And there were no accommodations for that in the 80s growing up. The best my parents could get was, well, when you're rearranging the seating charts, try to make sure she's sitting on the front right side of the room. That way her good ear is aiming towards the teacher. And that was the extent of what it meant to be congenitally hearing impaired in the 80s.
My son was diagnosed with kidney failure in 2009, which, Bianca, as you pointed out, was one year after immunocompromised people were included in the ADA. And if he had been growing up when I was growing up, they wouldn't have cared. But because he was lucky enough to go into kidney failure one year after they were protected, we had IEPs. We had 504 plans.
We had cleaning products in the classrooms and teachers that knew they had to wipe down every desk before he came back from gym or lunch or what have you.
And it's things that, especially for people with invisible disabilities, that are so literally life-saving, as you say, that in my child's lifetime came to be protected, that were not afforded to me growing up or to us, all of us look roughly the same age-ish growing up. And it is so incredibly recent.
And it is so easy to lose when we bring back in net neutrality and we think about who is being seen and who is being represented and who is being allowed to be invisible and forgotten. When we don't have free expression and free exchange of ideas and free information, that is how we lose rights that have only been gained in my child's lifetime. Yeah.
So I encourage everyone who's enjoyed this conversation or maybe is leaving with more questions than answers. Those are good things. Stay curious. And I invite you to look into net neutrality.
What are some of the local level types of advocacy that are happening in your area?
There's plenty. And also learn to protect yourself. If you're a sexuality professional listening to this, I want you to look up who can scrub your information, like your personal address and cell phone numbers, off of the internet for you. I'm happy to recommend some. I'm sure Wolf can also recommend a couple of these because we will be getting doxed if we're not already.
We're being targeted just for the work that we're doing and we need to stay protected and protect ourselves. So surveillance is a big thing. We didn't get too much into it, but I'm glad we were able to say the word several times. I'm also happy to talk a little bit more about what that could look like in the future, in the future. But if you're also an educator, same thing.
We now live in a world where American culture is gun culture. So if you go into the school system, people now go to schools and shoot them and shoot people there. So even though it's scary, I don't want to scare people in that way. I just want us to have a safety plan.
I have classes around creating safety plans, around accountability, but also around media literacy and net neutrality specifically for sexuality professionals. They're posted on the ASET calendar, but you can also go to any app, pd.com and find more of the classes that I offer there. And you'll notice how everything we offer is open access when you register for a class.
So if you don't know what that looks like for a class, we give you all the materials that you need. We don't think you should have to buy a textbook. I'll give you the textbook because I bought it already and paid the person who wrote the book and who gave me permission to share it with you for free. So all of those components, I encourage people to look into. And thank you.
Oh, thank you. I got chills when you said open access, by the way, for the record. Thank you so much for tuning in to Securing Sexuality, your source of information you need to protect yourself and your relationships. Securing Sexuality is brought to you by the Bound Together Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit. From the bedroom to the cloud, we're here to help you navigate safe sex in a digital age.
Be sure to check out our website, securingsexuality.com for links to more information about the topics we've discussed here today, as well as our live conference in Detroit. And join us again for more fascinating conversations about the intersection of sexuality and technology. Have a great week. Thank you.