Do Kids Have a 'Right to Delete' Web Postings?

By Betty Wang, JD on September 23, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

On the Internet, do kids have a right to delete web postings? They would under a California bill that's awaiting the governor's signature, according to The New York Times.

Legislators in California have passed the first measure of its kind in this country, giving minors the legal right to "erase" their online indiscretions on websites. While Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and other social media sites already actually offer this option to their users, this bill would make it the law.

Gov. Jerry Brown has not taken a public stance on the bill yet. If he doesn't sign it by mid-October, then the legislation will automatically become law, The Times reports. What do kids and parents need to know about this proposed law? Here's a general overview:

Requirements for Websites

The "eraser" or right-to-delete provision is only one part of Senate Bill 568. The bill would guarantee privacy rights only for minors in California.

What exactly would be required of websites under the proposed law? Among the bill's stipulations, an operator of a website, online service, online application, or mobile application must:

  • Not market or advertise a product or service related to alcoholic beverages, handguns, dangerous fireworks, or tobacco, to name a few;
  • Allow a minor to remove or request and obtain removal of any content or information posted by that minor user;
  • Provide notice to a minor registered to that site or service that he or she may remove or request to obtain removal of any content or information posted by that minor user; and
  • Provide clear instructions to the minor on how to remove or request removal of information.

Noncompliance would likely lead to a violation of the law, but no clear-cut penalties are set in place. Also, there would be no right to removal when any provision of federal or state law requires that a third party retain the information for one reason or another.

The Internet and State Laws

SB 568, if it becomes law, would take effect on January 1, 2015. However, despite the importance of protecting children and their privacy, the bill is not without its caveats, reports the Times.

For example, if other states follow suit and pass similar laws, this could lead to inconsistencies and confusion, especially because the Internet and websites are stateless and don't exclusively operate according to one particular state's laws.

"This is well-meaning legislation but there are concerns about it," stated the president of the Family Online Safety Institute, who favors children's online privacy but thinks that regulation by the Federal Trade Commission might be more proper, according to the Times reports. "Where California leads, others follow," he said.

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