California has recently become the first state to enact a law requiring social media companies to give young users (under-18) the chance to delete regretful posts. Federal law lacks such a provision due mainly to the opposing argument that this would be too burdensome on social media companies. Many young social media users do not think before posting irresponsible, reputation-damaging words and pictures to the Internet. The “erase bill” was signed Monday by Governor Jerry Brown and comes into effect in January 2015.
The erase bill is lauded by many such as the founder and CEO of Common Sense Media, who stated, “[t]his puts privacy in the hands of kids, teenagers and the parents, not under the control of an anonymous tech company.” Senate leader Darrell Steinberg noted, “This is a groundbreaking protection for our kids who often act impetuously…before they think through the consequences. They deserve the right to remove this material that could haunt them for years to come.” The law also mandates that social media companies inform minors about their right to erase posts.
One blatant flaw in the legislation is that the law does not force the companies to remove the content completely from the servers. The posts thus survive in the vast cyber-sphere. However, allowing minors to retract ignorant statements and posts from the Internet seems to be a good start in the direction of future federal protection.
The article discussing this new legislation notes that pictures and posts discoverable online could ruin a young person’s ability to land a prestigious summer internship or even admittance into college. After all, employers and recruiters certainly Google young applicants, probably even before reading their applications.
The aim of this legislation is to get other states on board, and eventually to persuade Washington to construct binding law. As a graduate student without any social media, I never had to worry about the potential issues arising from regrettable social media posts. However, as we all make mistakes, especially in our teenage years, it seems appropriate to me that lawmakers would want to give minors the ability to right their wrongs in the days following such posts. I often regret words that come out of my mouth, let alone statements and/or photos that are memorialized on the Internet.
Do you think a young person’s future should be jeopardized for posting substance on the Internet that reflects a moment of their stupidity? We all undoubtedly must be held accountable for what we say, but shouldn’t minors get some leeway? Or, should schools and companies seeking to hire these minors be privy to the potential for such misconduct? I for one support this type of legislation. What do you think?