Thanks to social media, embarrassing blunders can now become global affairs, and with little recourse to remove something once it’s posted. A California bill signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown this week provides a reprieve, at least for minors. It allows those under the age of 18 to permanently delete any online posts they wish, providing they weren’t uploaded by a third party or subpoenaed.
The idea behind the bill SB-568 was that young people have experienced instances where something posted online can haunt them for years to come, potentially hurting their employability or even their chance of getting into college. Many employers and colleges now consider it routine to check the social media activities of their applicants. With Brown’s signature, the bill will now provide some protection for minors when it becomes law in 2015.
The law also includes new stipulations for marketers, barring the targeting of minors for products and services they would not legally be able to purchase, things like alcohol and tobacco of course but also tanning salons, diet pills and firearms. Additionally, the law prevents web sites from distributing information on minors to third parties, including marketers and advertisers.
The law has garnered some criticism in being unclear about what can be deleted, for instance statements posted on a comment thread. Some are even saying it’s potentially unnecessary, as many websites already provide the ability to delete posts. Those griping about the latter are conveniently overlooking that the behemoth of social sites, Facebook, doesn’t have that functionality.
If anything, the law might serve to make minors, and maybe some adults, recognize the permanence of what they post online and think before they share. As some of the earliest adopters of social media have discovered, those ‘on a whim’ moments can live on long past the whim.