The idea – that if a minor posts something to the internet and later regrets it, he should be able to take it down – is a fine one. Who could argue with that? Not California lawmakers.
This week, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a law attempting to ensure just that. The problem with the law is that it won’t work as intended, has too many loopholes and shortcomings and might lull teens and parents into a false sense of security that could encourage even worse online behavior.
- If photos, comments or various forms of content are posted by other people, they are not covered by the law, including revenge porn
- The law does not apply to social media users over the age of 18, even for content posted when the user was a minor
- Sites which are valuable communication or discovery platforms could bar or deter minors from joining
- The law requires the network to remove the content from public view, but not from their servers
- The ability guaranteed by the law already exists
Every social network that we do work on already allows users to delete their own content, with the exception of Reddit but there is a workaround. Even 4chan allows users to delete posts. If you’re really paranoid, you can even delete the whole account and start over.
Number 1 above is a doozy. We would argue that this law would only be a constructive step in the right direction if a user were allowed to delete posts made by others about him. That would be such a freedom of speech nightmare that I can see why it is not included in this law as it is proposed.
There is a lot more legislative and legal work to do on this issue. In the meantime, minors should be very careful about what they post in the first place.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.