Sep 15, 2022 - Technology

California Gov. Newsom signs children's online protection bill

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaking in Antioch in August 2022.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaking in Antioch in August 2022. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Thursday signed bipartisan legislation that in part requires online platforms and services, including social media companies, to implement digital safeguards to protect users under 18.

Why it matters: California is the first state to pass such legislation, which is sure to be used as a template for laws passed by other states, Axios' Ashley Gold reports.

  • The California law was modeled after rules that went into effect in the United Kingdom last year and that govern how tech firms can target kids with push notifications, require messaging controls and provide other features intended to keep minors safe online.
  • Tech companies — including Google, Amazon, TikTok, Snap and Twitter — and other groups lobbied against it before it passed the California legislature.

What they're saying: “We’re taking aggressive action in California to protect the health and wellbeing of our kids,” Newsom said in a statement.

  • “As a father of four, I’m familiar with the real issues our children are experiencing online," he added.

The big picture: The law prohibits companies that provide online services likely to be used by children from using children's personal information — like names or addresses — collecting and selling their geolocation or encouraging children to disclose personal data.

  • It requires the companies to turn on the most stringent privacy and safety settings, like messaging control, for children by default to help protect them and their mental health.
  • It surpasses protections required by the 1998 Children’s Privacy Protection Act, which only protects the privacy of users under the age of 13 when they use online service clearly directed at kids.

Zoom out: Members of Congress have introduced legislation to federally expand online protections for children, while some have also urged companies to extend the protections they guarantee to kids in the U.K. to kids in the U.S., Axios' Margaret Harding McGill and Sara Fischer report.

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