California’s New Digital Erase Law

On September 23, 2013, Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 568 (“SB 568”) into law, which requires social media sites to permit children to permanently erase online posts. These websites, including, but not limited to, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, will have to provide options for users under the age of 18 to delete texts, photos, and videos. However, this option will not extend to content that a third party uploads regarding the minor. Hence, as California works to implement this new law, public debate circles around its effects and whether it will actually be helpful in protecting children online.

What Are The Provisions Of California’s New Digital Erase Law?

The law addresses websites that are directed to minors and have actual knowledge that a user is a minor. The websites include ones created specifically for the purpose of targeting minors rather than adults. These websites must provide a method for underage users to remove public posts about them. Alternatively, these users may ask the website to remove the content. However, if a minor received any compensation (i.e., marketing benefits, rewards) for a post, then the post is not subject to this law. In theory, websites may provide minimal compensation to minors to circumvent this law and avoid having to take down any posts. Furthermore, the law is ambiguous in some areas. For example, it is unclear whether minors are required to erase the content while they are still minors or whether they retain the right to erase any content they posted as minors. These details will need to be clarified to ensure proper enforcement.

Will SB 568 Really Be Effective?

In fact, State Senator Darrell Steinberg says this new law will allow children to seal a past of bad online postings that could pose potential obstacles for future opportunities. While lawmakers acknowledge the value of providing children the option to clear away the bad online decisions of their past, commentators point out that most social media sites already have delete options. The issue is that these problematic posts are quickly linked to other posts and websites. So, deleting the post from one website does not make it irretrievable from other sources. Additionally, often the harmful posts come from other people posting about the children, rather than the children posting about themselves. This law does not provide a way to erase these posts. There is also an issue of enforcement. Social media sites typically employ third parties to archive the information on the websites. Therefore, when any one of these sites allows children to delete past posts, they may not also be allowing them to delete the archived posts. Indeed, the websites may not even have the authority to compel the third party in charge of archiving to delete their records. Regardless, the law does not go into effect until January 1, 2015. Therefore, the California Legislature has some time to address the potential weaknesses.

At the Law Offices of Salar Atrizadeh, we are knowledgeable and experienced in various fields dealing with online privacy and identity protection. If you have questions about the effects of this new legislation, you may contact us to speak with an attorney.