California Governor Jerry Brown Signs Legislation Giving Teens an Online Eraser Button

| by Dominic Kelly
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New legislation, signed by California Governor Jerry Brown on Monday, will require websites to allow teenagers the option to delete their own postings and instruct them on how to do so.

The new legislation in California will go into law by 2015, and the intention behind it is to ensure the privacy of minors and not limit them from reaching their potential in the future. Many consider it to be an online “eraser button,” and California is the first state to enact this law.

Recently, James P. Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media, wrote an open letter to Governor Brown asking him to approve this legislation and give kids a chance to redeem themselves in the future, regardless of things they’ve posted online in the past.

“Teens especially are avid daily users of social media,” Brown wrote in the letter. “Three out of four teenagers have a profile on a social networking site, such as Facebook or Twitter. These sites offer many benefits for connecting, communicating, and learning, yet children and teens often self-reveal before they self-reflect and may post sensitive personal information about themselves -- and about others -- without realizing the consequences.”

The bill, known as SB568 and authored by Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, also forbids websites that are directed towards youth or have known users that are minors from advertising things that are illegal for people underage, including alcohol, tobacco, and guns.

While many feel that this will prove to be a positive thing for California youth, others feel that it will make it more difficult for teenagers to access the Internet. The Center for Democracy and Technology is one organization that opposes the bill.

"We are principally concerned that this legal uncertainty for website operators will discourage them from developing content and services tailored to younger users,” said the organization in a letter, “and will lead popular sites and services that may appeal to minors to prohibit minors from using their services.”

Regardless, Governor Brown has signed the legislation, and affected websites will have until the beginning of 2015 to fully conform to the “eraser button” law.