Magical Internet eraser now legally required in California -

Magical Internet eraser now legally required in California

A silly bill to protect young people on social media


Last week, California Governor Jerry Brown finally did something to protect young people from abusive social media. It was silly and pointless, but at least he did something!

Specifically, Brown signed the “Eraser Button” bill into law. Senate Bill No. 568 (here it is) demands that by 2015, every Internet site or app must give underage users in California the ability to remove content that they later regret having posted. Never again will a teen be haunted by reputation-ruining party pics or abusive cyberbullying. Unless, of course, the offending material was uploaded, shared, or re-tweeted by someone else. Which it always is.

The fact is, and it’s an obvious one, that all of the major social media sites already let you remove your own posts. That’s not the problem. The problem is stuff that other people post about you. Yes, sometimes a teen will be harmed by something that they themselves foolishly posted. But the harm comes from other people seeing it and sharing it. By then, removing the offending content is just a sure-fire way of ensuring that one’s tormenters pay special attention to it and spread it far and wide. You’d think Governor Brown would be familiar with the Streisand Effect, the phenomenon whereby actions taken to remove information from the Internet result directly in the widespread distribution of that very information. After all, it was named after Barbara Streisand’s disastrous attempt to suppress a photo of her California residence.

So why not go after the real problem? Why not draft a bill that would let teens remove abusive content posted by other teens? Well, because define “abusive,” that’s why. Giving every teen the power to remove every other teen’s information at their own discretion is, freedom of expression issues aside, a sure-fire way to exponentially multiply and escalate teen-on-teen conflict. Just imagine the drama.

Ultimately, there’s no reason to oppose SB 568. Just because most sites already comply with it doesn’t mean that all sites shouldn’t be required to. I have a bigger problem with another part of the law, which bans the online marketing to minors of, among other evils, an “etching cream that is capable of defacing property.” But what the heck, you take the good with the bad, and this bill is no great evil.

But it’s also not a “groundbreaking protection for our kids” as state Senator Darrell Steinberg boasts. In fact, it’s not a bill for kids at all. It’s for grown-ups who need to feel that they’ve done something.

Follow Jesse on Twitter @JesseBrown


Magical Internet eraser now legally required in California

  1. I think California is better off if the idiots in Sacramento distract themselves with this kind of crap as much as possible. When they start making tangible changes is when they really start chipping away at our rights.

    • Yup. Nassim Taleb has argued, only partially tongue-in-cheek, that we should be grateful for large, inefficient governments who waste their time worrying about inanities. By being large, inefficient, slow, cumbersome, and distracted, they are less capable of doing real damage.

  2. Its more likely that your comments will be removed first and you will get CENSORED if you say something that’s not ‘politically correct’ or ‘moral’ according to conservative American standards. Big brother, the NSA is always watching.

  3. cascade deletes ;)

  4. So now ALL websites are supposed to tailor their websites to California state laws. I’d imagine that this probably won’t be legal and certainly would be challenged considering internet is worldwide. If the website is located in New York how are California laws even going to be enforced since you are visiting the site (physically located elsewhere) much less if its in Europe or anywhere else. Stupid law and waste of time.