Thursday, September 26, 2013

California passes law forcing social media sites to enable minors to delete "foolish" content; unclear how it affects other sites (Blogger, Wordpress, YouTube, etc)

Reuters (in a story by Ronnie Cohen) is reporting that California has passed a law, signed by Democratic governor Jerry Brown, which gives minors the legal right to erase “digital mistakes”, such as inappropriate pictures of them. The law is supposed to give minors the ability to remove what Dr. Phil used to call "Internet mistakes" (in the days of Myspace) -- see TV blog, Jan. 15, 2008.  
Facebook and Twitter allow people to delete content, but the law would seem to require all social media sites to post delete buttons for minors. 
NBC has a copy of the story here.

It was not immediately clear how this would affect sites hosted outside California, or if it matters where the ISP servers are located.

Does this affect blogs like mine?  The only way a user posts right now is through comments, which are moderated.  Right now, Blogger doesn’t seem to offer a user a way to delete a comment that has been approved.  My flat sites don’t allow users to post; content has to be sent to me by email.  Future changes, however, may involve using comment-management software which presumably will be able to comply with California and other similar laws.  However, "knowledge" sites like mine typically don't offer the concept of followers or friends or "likes", so it's not clear if the law is even applicable then. 
In mid 2008, I started using comment moderation.  I did go through and delete inappropriate or possibly malicious (in terms of link) comments at that time. For example, I removed one or two comments that tried to offer links to fake anti-virus software.  Technically, under Section 230, I may not have been required to do this, and the California law could conceivably contradict Section 230 in some circumstances. Let me add that comments that merely criticize me or my views are NOT inappropriate.
I have, on three occasions that I can recall (in 2001, 2003, and 2006) modified or removed small amounts of content on requests from individuals, from the old “hppub” and the current “doaskdotell” sites.  In one case (2003) an entire file was removed.   In 2006, I changed the name of an individual in the on-line version of my first DADT book to initials so it would not be found by search engines;  the individual was concerned that my “free content” practice with digital copies of my work could make it too easy for relatively obscure things to be unearthed.  In all of these cases, there were unusual circumstances that justified the requests, and these sorts of incidents are generally infrequent. 

However, I remember a comment from one person as early as late 2001 (but after 9/11) who was concerned that employers and customers (and prospective dates) were already “Googling” their names.  Notice how often names are not used in some of my postings!

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