Good news and bad news for all you headstrong, risk-taking, socially unaware kids: a new California law requires Web companies to remove content posted by a minor if he/she requests its removal. The bad news: that doesn’t include content posted OF you by someone else. And chances are you’re not the one who posted pictures of yourself drinking from the beer bong at your friend’s older brother’s frat party.
SB 568—also known as the “Eraser” law, is a good start that doesn’t quite go far enough. To be fair, it does make California the first state in the nation to require Web companies to remove content posted by a minor at his or her request, but there are a few caveats to that.
For starters: the law doesn’t extend to adults who request the removal of content they posted as minors. So that picture of yourself in blackface while you reenacted Chris Brown's assault on Rihanna—you probably didn’t appreciate the magnitude of the awfulness of that picture until you took your first Sociology/Gender Studies class in college—maybe at the age of 19 or 20. Or that essay that you wrote about how it’s not your fault you’re awesomely, fantastically rich and the poors should really stop hating you for it—you’ll probably regret that one a few years later. Too bad!
Another downside: the law doesn’t cover content or pictures of minors posted by other people. This one is particularly problematic, especially for teenage girls, who are frequently the target of “creepshots,” “upskirt shots,” and other predatory pictures that are posted online without their consent (let’s not forget revenge porn or girls whose sexual assaults are photographed and circulated via social media). It would be great if this law gave them some kind of legal leverage to have such images removed, but when it comes to the sexual objectification of teenage girls it’s FREE SPEECH!!1!!
The bill was authored by Senate President pro Tem Darrel Steinberg and signed Monday by Governor Jerry Brown.
“This is a groundbreaking protection for our kids who often act impetuously with postings of ill-advised pictures or messages before they think through the consequences,” said Steinberg, in a statement. “They deserve the right to remove this material that could haunt them for years to come.”
They just can’t remove them…you know…in the years to come.
The bill also prohibits websites that are geared toward minors (or websites that know a particular user is a minor) from advertising products that would be otherwise illegal for a minor to purchase, like firearms, alcohol, and tobacco.
Image source: bcnn4youth.com