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California teens to receive “digital erasers”

Hollie Newton • Sep 25, 2013 at 12:03 PM

The fast-evolving world of social media can be difficult to navigate, especially when attempting to manage your account and privacy settings. However, for minors in California this task just became a little bit easier.

Governor Jerry Brown of California signed a new bill into law on Monday which requires social media websites to provide minors (under 18) the option to erase their digital footprint. Under this new law, minors will have the opportunity to permanently delete their own postings and photos from various social media websites. This bill also requires social media websites to provide notice of the removal when a request is submitted. In a letter composed to Governor Brown, Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media, stated “too often, young people post information they later regret but can’t delete from the online and mobile world. All of us – especially kids – should be able to delete what we post."

The law was designed to help protect teens from bullying, embarrassment and harm to job and college applications from online posts they may later regret. In addition, this new law also prohibits youth-oriented websites, or those that know they have users who are minors, from advertising products that are illegal to minors, such as guns, alcohol and tobacco.

The law, however, does not cover postings or photos that minors were tagged in. This means that if someone else, a friend, enemy or other, posts a compromising picture of a California minor, that minor can’t force the site to remove the photo, even if the minor originally published the content. This law had very little resistance from the opposition and is set to go into effect January 1, 2015.

For now, the rest of us will have to settle for the privacy settings that each social media website like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter offers.

Do you think minors should be allowed to “erase” online activity retroactively? Share your thoughts in the commons below.

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