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Gov. Gavin Newsom Signs Bill Strengthening Online Protections For Kids

Advocacy groups have called the legislation unconstitutional and a 'poison pill for the internet'

Gov. Gavin Newsom Signs Bill Strengthening Online Protections For Kids

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed into law a bill that aims to protect the privacy and safety of children online.

The bipartisan legislation, AB 2273, prohibits companies that provide online services, products or features likely to be accessed by a minor from using their personal information, geolocating/geotracking them, or leading or encouraging minors to provide personal information.

Prior to any business launching new online services, products, or features, the bill requires a Data Protection Impact Assessment to be completed, which the business will have to submit to the California Attorney General within five business days.

“We’re taking aggressive action in California to protect the health and wellbeing of our kids,” Newsom said in a statement with other lawmakers. “As a father of four, I’m familiar with the real issues our children are experiencing online, and I’m thankful to Assemblymembers Wicks and Cunningham and the tech industry for pushing these protections and putting the wellbeing of our kids first.”

The new law creates the California Children’s Data Protection Working Group, which will be comprised members with expertise in children’s data privacy and children’s rights. The group will make recommendations on best practices and deliver a report to the state legislature.

Even before Newsom signed AB 2273, advocacy groups expressed concern over the new law, calling it a “poison pill for the internet” and argue it could push sites toward the implementation of age verification systems.

One advocacy organization calls the bill unconstitutional. “California has been a leader in technology development, but the legislature’s actions would give innovators yet another reason to leave the Golden State to avoid overly burdensome regulation that harms families and violates the First Amendment,” said Jennifer Huddleston, NetChoice Policy Counsel.

A 2021 poll showed that 49 percent of parents report their children ages 10-12 have used social media apps within the past six months. Thirty-two percent of kids 7-9 years old have used social media. Only a third say their children are taught in school how to use social media safely.

“As a parent, I am terrified of the effects technology addiction and saturation are having on our children and their mental health. While social media and the internet are integral to the way we as a global community connect and communicate, our children still deserve real safeguards like AB 2273 to protect their wellbeing as they grow and develop,” said First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom. “I am so appreciative of the Governor, Assemblymember Cunningham, and Assemblymember Wicks’ leadership and partnership to ensure tech companies are held accountable for the online spaces they design and the way those spaces affect California’s children.”

The bill also imposes civil penalties of up to $2,500 per affected child for each negligent violation and fines of up to $7,500 per affected child for each intentional violation.

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