In September, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the “Eraser Button” bill into law. Senate Bill No. 568 states that every Internet website or app must allow underage users in California to delete content they’ve posted, essentially protecting them from abusive or hurtful social media experiences. The bill goes into effect by 2015, with two primary requirements:
- Internet companies must provide a way for minors to remove or delete content before it can be transmitted to a third party.
- Internet companies can’t market “forbidden” products to minors, including tobacco, guns, and alcohol.
The law defines Internet websites or apps as “an Internet Web site, online service, online application, or mobile application directed to minors…” It requires “the operator of an Internet Web site, online service, online application, or mobile application to permit a minor who is a registered user of the operator’s Internet Web site, online service, online application, or mobile application, to remove, or to request and obtain removal of, content or information posted.”
Most major social media websites already have ways for users to remove posted content. What the governor’s bill hasn’t done is provide a way for minors to erase content they posted that their “friends” share. When a teenager posts something, regrets it, and deletes the content, this doesn’t stop other people from “sharing” the content. So the potential for damage to a minor’s reputation still exists.
The law has good intentions, but it leaves questions and concerns in the minds of many. For example, does an individual need to be a minor to request content removal? What about an adult who posted something a long time ago and wants it removed?
Unfortunately, the truth is that it’s nearly impossible to delete content from the Internet. Internet archives create copies of information posted on the web. The best “eraser” is to not post unpleasant or embarrassing content in the first place. Parents should teach this to their children and follow this advice themselves.