With the passage of the Kids Code, California paves the way for a safer digital world for US children

Child rights advocates on Tuesday voiced their hope that a new online protection law passed in California will set a new standard for the US and called on Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom to make more than two million children safer by signing the law into law.

“California is not only setting the standard for kids living in the backyard of the tech sector, it’s also paving the way for the rest of the United States and for the world.”

The California Age Appropriate Design Code Bill (AB 2273) passed unanimously in the state Senate Monday night after sailing through the state assembly without opposition. If enshrined in law, it would be the first in the country to require tech companies to install protections for young users, even if their websites or products are designed for adult use.

AB 2273, dubbed the Kids Code by proponents, would require all apps and websites that are “likely to be accessed by children” to design their products with child safety and “children’s privacy, safety and welfare in mind.” to give priority to profits”. .

If Newsom signs the law, tech companies would be forced to analyze whether their products might expose children to explicit or inappropriate content, or compromise children’s privacy.

Technology companies would have to default to the highest possible privacy settings for users under the age of 18 and would be prevented from collecting data on the exact locations of children.

The draft law is based on the British Age Appropriate Design Code, also known as the Children’s Code, which was passed in 2021. This bill was credited with pushing popular social media companies to make accounts private for users under the age of 18 by default.

“The news from California is a clear endorsement of the UK’s approach to protecting children online,” said Beeban Kidron, founder of the 5Rights Foundation, which worked to develop the Children’s Code. “With this bill, California is not only setting the standard for kids living in the backyard of the tech sector, it is also paving the way for the rest of the United States and the world. California’s importance in the global tech community makes this a huge step forward.”

The legislation was overwhelmingly passed by California lawmakers, despite aggressive lobbying against its provisions by the state Chamber of Commerce and groups representing Amazon, Apple, Pinterest and Facebook, who have claimed the bill is too broad, will tech giants with design regulations burden and should only apply to children under the age of 16 and not to all users under the age of 18.

Buffy Wicks (D-15), a member of the State Assembly that authored AB 2273, expressed hope that once the law goes into effect, it “will be emulated by other states and countries around the world.”

“We have seen from the UK code that technology can be regulated and I hope that with AB 2273 we will now see that change in California as well,” Wicks said in a statement. “Children deserve to be protected anywhere in the world, offline or online.”

The bill’s passage follows public outcry over Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s plan to launch a version of Instagram for kids, even amid reports that the app has been targeting teenage girls with images of self-harm and eating disorders. Google and TikTok have also faced hefty fines in recent years for collecting personal information from children without parental consent and making profits by then targeting them with ads.

Under the Kids Code, according to children’s advocacy Fairplay for Kids, “millions of California children and youth will experience a safer and healthier digital world that doesn’t take advantage of their vulnerabilities.”

Carrie Goldberg, a personal injury attorney who has fought cases of online child exploitation and other abuses by tech companies, called the passage of the Kids Code “big news” and urged other state legislators to build on the legislation and establish a “private right of action.” , so that children … can sue for harmful design.”

“The most harmful products just can’t adapt enough to protect children,” said Goldberg. “And yes, risk being banished from existence. That is a good thing!”

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