Online platforms such as
The state Senate passed California’s age-appropriate design code law Monday night, after approving it with strong Assembly support.
If Governor Gavin Newsom (D) signs the bipartisan invoice (AB-2273) into the law, online services that violate its provisions could be subject to fines of up to $7,500 per affected child. This is expected to impact social media platforms, as well as the gaming industry and other online services that may be accessible to children under 18.
The changes made by the Senate to the bill passed by the Assembly require him to return to this chamber for a vote of approval before he can lead the office of the governor.
The Senate’s updates on the text of the bill focus on the enforcement of the law by California’s attorney general and its enforcement by its nation’s premier privacy agency.
The amended version of the legislation also aims to clarify the types of online services it considers likely to be accessed by children. This would cover services aimed at children, as well as those where a significant portion of the audience includes children.
Newsom did not say whether he would sign the bill. His office does not typically comment on pending legislation, according to a spokesperson.
Inspired by the UK
Under the law, online services should incorporate strong privacy protections by default and explain settings in a way that children can understand. The legislation would also limit the collection and use of minors’ data, in particular their location.
The measure is inspired by a UK age-appropriate design policy known as the “Children’s Code” which prompted online platforms with global audiences to tighten their privacy and security controls to young users. The aim of the UK code is to prioritize the best interests of the child over commercial interests.
The parallel proposal in California reflects pressure on social media and other online services to weigh the impact of features like autoplay or algorithm-based content on their users. Children’s advocacy groups have raised concerns about whether time spent online is fueling addictive behavior, bullying and mental health issues.
The California law would add protections for teenagers, who aren’t covered by existing federal children’s privacy law. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act applies to children under the age of 13.
Online gaming company Roblox supports adoption of the California code, as does a coalition of child advocacy groups and technology accountability organizations. Opponents of the bill include the California Chamber of Commerce, the Entertainment Software Association and TechNet.