October 4, 2022

California's new law aimed at improving online privacy and safety for children has the industry on edge and critics warning of disruptions to the internet — but advocates say most users won't see big changes.
Why it matters: The California law mirrors a U.K. standard that prompted some changes by Big Tech companies but did not drastically alter the online landscape.
Driving the news The bipartisan California Age Appropriate Design Code Act, signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday, requires online platforms to consider the best interest of users under 18 when designing their services.
What's happening: The age estimation requirement has sparked an outcry that the law will alter how users navigate the web by forcing them to prove their age before accessing a site.
Yes, but: Instagram, YouTube, Meta and TikTok made changes to their services to make teenage users' experiences more private and safer ahead of the U.K.'s Age Appropriate Design Code taking effect last year.
A Meta spokesperson called the California law an "important development" but noted the company still has concerns about some of the provisions.
Tech industry association TechNet opposes the measure, in part because lawmakers did not agree to lower the age threshold to under 16, Dylan Hoffman, TechNet executive director for California and the Southwest, told Axios.
The other side: Supporters say the age estimation requirement doesn't mean users will have to share their ages, and that sites that are already collecting data likely know the age of their users.
What they're saying: Both Fight for the Future, a digital rights advocacy group, and NetChoice, a tech association, argue that the law is unconstitutional because it infringes on the editorial rights of websites and apps.
The California measure takes effect in 2024, and gives companies 90 days to "cure" their sites of violations before incurring any fines.
What they're saying: "The point of the bill is not to make Sesame Street safer," Rocha told Axios. "It is to make the places where youth and teens actually hang out online more safe."


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