Kathleen Miles is the executive editor of Noema Magazine. She can be reached on Twitter at @mileskathleen.
California teens get an online “eraser button” under a law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday.
The law makes California the first state to require websites to allow people younger than 18 to remove their own postings on that website, and to clearly inform minors how to do so.
“Kids and teens frequently self-reveal before they self-reflect,” Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media, told The Huffington Post. “In today’s digital age, mistakes can stay with and haunt kids for their entire life. This bill is a big step forward for privacy rights, especially since California has more tech companies than any other state.”
The law is meant to help protect teens from bullying, embarrassment and harm to job and college applications from online posts they later regret. In a 2012 Kaplan survey of college admissions counselors, nearly a quarter said they checked out applicants’ social networking. Of those counselors, 35 percent said what they found — including included vulgarities, alcohol consumption and “illegal activities” — negatively affected applicants’ admissions chances.
Major social media sites — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Vine — already allow users of any age to delete their posts, including photos and comments. California’s “eraser button” law will require this policy for all websites with users in the state.
The new law also prohibits youth-oriented websites or those that know they have users who are minors from advertising products that are illegal to underagers, such as guns, alcohol and tobacco. Websites will not be required to delete re-postings by a third party of the minor’s original post.
Opponents of the law said it will burden websites with developing policies for different states. Proponents said they hope the law spreads.
The law, SB568, was authored by state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento).
“This is a good business practice that should filter through the industry,” Rhys Williams, Steinberg’s press secretary, told HuffPost. “These companies are keen to avoid bad press just as parents are keen to avoid bad attention toward their children.” In 2011, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) introduced a similar bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, called the Do Not Track Kids Act. It died in committee.
The new California law — supported by Common Sense Media, Children NOW, Crime Victims United, the Child Abuse Prevention Center and the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence — goes into effect Jan. 1, 2015.