Tech Trade Group sues California to suspend child online safety law

Tech Trade Group sues California to suspend child online safety law

Tech Trade Group sues California to suspend child online safety law

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A tech industry trade association sued the state of California on Wednesday in an effort to end a new child online safety law, a legal challenge that comes at a time of heightened public concerns about the risks that content on popular platforms like Instagram and TikTok could pose. to younger users.


The new law, called the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act, will require many online services to install sweeping protections for minors, including protecting children from potentially harmful content and disabling friend-finding features that could allow adult strangers to contact young people. Governor Gavin Newsom signed the Child Online Safety Bill, the first of its kind in the nation, in September.

The trade association, called NetChoice, is suing to block the law before it takes effect in 2024. Members of the trade group include Amazon; Pinterest; ICT Tac; Google, owner of YouTube; and Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram.

In a legal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, NetChoice said the legislation would require online services to act as content censors, violating constitutional protections for free speech. The group also argued that the law would harm minors and others by hindering their access to free and open online resources.

The law “urges companies to serve as roving censors of internet speech,” the NetChoice complaint said. “Such excessive moderation,” he added, “will restrict the availability of information for users of all ages and stifle important resources, especially for vulnerable young people who depend on the internet for vital information.”

In recent years, children’s groups, parents and researchers have raised concerns that algorithms on platforms like TikTok and Instagram have promoted harmful content about eating disorders and eating disorders. self-harm among young users. In response, lawmakers and regulators in the United States and Europe have strengthened safeguards for children’s online privacy and safety.

The California Child Safety Act was a bipartisan effort that passed both houses of the state legislature unanimously. It was based on the Child Online Safety Rules that Britain brought into force last year.

UK rules require online services that are likely to have minors as users to prioritize child safety. In practice, this means that many popular social media and video game platforms must activate the highest privacy settings for young users in Britain. They also need to turn off some features that might trick kids into staying online for hours, such as autoplay – videos that automatically play one after the other.

Last year, as the UK rules were about to come into effect, Google, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, Snap, YouTube and others introduced new safeguards for young users around the world. YouTube, for example, has disabled video autoplay by default for minors.

California rules also require online services to disable features such as autoplaying videos for children.

In the complaint, NetChoice argued that these rules were too broad, would affect too wide a range of online services, and hinder the platforms’ ability to freely select and promote content for users. In particular, the tech trade group argued that systems like autoplay and content recommendation algorithms were widely used “benign” features.

In response to a reporter’s question about why the group wanted to block the California law when many of its members already complied with similar UK rules, NetChoice said the state law was unconstitutional under of the first amendment.

“While the UK has a similar law on the books, it doesn’t have a First Amendment or a long tradition of online speech protection,” said Chris Marchese, NetChoice’s solicitor.


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