Current Weather
The Spy FM

This Law Wants To Save Teens’ Reputations, But Probably Won’t

Filed by KOSU News in US News.
September 27, 2013

Starting in 2015, social networking sites must allow minors in California to delete their posts, according to a law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this week.

This seems like great news for teens, who don’t have fully developed brains yet and may post things that they won’t want future employers — or colleges — to see.

Darrell Steinberg, the state senator who proposed the bill, certainly thinks young people should be celebrating. “This is a groundbreaking protection for our kids who often act impetuously with postings of ill-advised pictures or messages before they think through the consequences,” he said in a statement. “They deserve the right to remove this material that could haunt them for years to come.”

In theory, this so-called eraser button will mean that impetuous posts will haunt teens no longer. It’s a valiant goal, but as some politicians with embarrassing tweets could tell you, “delete” doesn’t mean “disappear.” (And can we note that those politicians are supposed to have fully developed brains by their ages?)

As the San Francisco Chronicle points out:

“If the underage drinking picture is posted by someone else, for example, it’s not covered by the law. If the image is copied and posted to another Web site, that would not be covered, either.

“Web companies also are not required to scrub their servers clean of personal data, just remove the requested item from public viewing. …

“There’s an additional catch: the law doesn’t extend to adults who want to go back and delete material they posted as minors.”

Not only does this eraser button approach have some serious holes, but it also doesn’t add much new to the state of social media privacy.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and several other social networking sites already give users the capability to delete posts. And they’re accessible to everyone, in every location — not just minors in California.

One could argue that this legislation is a preventive measure, forbidding the sites to change their policies. But advocates for the law are acting like it’s a breakthrough, not a safeguard.

Jim Steyer, CEO of the nonprofit Common Sense Media, in a public letter of support, mentioned the prevalence of Facebook and Twitter among teenagers, but he failed to mention that the teens already have delete capabilities.

When The Washington Post asked Steinberg about what makes the law different from current delete button options, he replied: “I think a lot of young people don’t know — it’s not always easily accessible to delete.” But the law doesn’t address educating teens or making the delete button more accessible.

To his credit, he pointed out that the photo-sharing app Snapchat doesn’t give users the option to delete photos. It will be interesting to see whether Snapchat changes its policy.

Another provision of the law, regarding online advertising, has more tangible changes: Sites that collect information from California minors will not be allowed to advertise certain products and services, including alcohol, guns, tobacco products, tattoos, drug paraphernalia or tanning beds.

Emily Siner is an intern on NPR’s Digital News Desk. [Copyright 2013 NPR]

Leave a Reply

12AM to 5AM The Spy

The Spy

An eclectic mix of the Spy's library of more than 10,000 songs curated by Ferris O'Brien.

Listen Live Now!

5AM to 9AM Morning Edition

Morning Edition

For more than two decades, NPR's Morning Edition has prepared listeners for the day ahead with two hours of up-to-the-minute news, background analysis, commentary, and coverage of arts and sports.

View the program guide!

9AM to 10AM The Takeaway

The Takeaway

A fresh alternative in morning news, "The Takeaway" provides a breadth and depth of world, national and regional news coverage that is unprecedented in public media.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center