“Eraser Law” Will Change Social Media for Teens

By Haydn Wall

A new bill known as the “Eraser Law” was signed by Governor Jerry Brown on September 23. The bill, SB 568, will act as an online eraser for minors, allowing them to permanently delete any social media posts.

This law aims to protect minors from the long-term effects of poor decisions regarding the Internet. It will force any company with a website or app that is accessible to minors in California to allow those minors to remove any content they have posted before it reaches the majority. The companies must also inform the minors of this removal option.

The law also prohibits companies from advertising restricted materials like tobacco or firearms to registered minors, and companies from disclosing any information they receive about minors for advertising purposes.

Since the law passed, questions have been raised both about its potential effectiveness and the intentions behind it. Some critics say the law lulls teens into a false sense of security, allowing them to believe that they can do whatever they want online without facing long-term consequences.

Senior Aiden Grahame believes that this law will encourage teenagers to make poor decisions.

“It means that you get a free pass, like, ‘Oh yeah, I can drink and put pictures online until I turn 18 and it’ll get deleted and nobody will care.’ But what about accountability? If you make a stupid decision putting a picture of yourself on a public forum online of your own volition, that was your choice,” Grahame said.

An additional concern is that once content is put online, anyone can copy and store it on their hard drive, where neither the companies nor the original poster will have control. Even if the content is removed by the original owner, it can still exist online. The law will require companies to inform minors of this potentiality, but the companies do not have to take any action if content that was taken down is re-posted by another person.

“I personally like the idea that for minors you can get rid of posts,” senior Dusty Baranow-Watts said. “[But] it’s virtually impossible to actually take something off of the Internet….Websites like archive.org archive old copies of websites, so if something gets taken down then there’s an archived version.”

Baranow-Watts provided an alternative to the law.

“I think the best thing to do is to educate people more about how the Internet works and [about] how anything you post on the Internet is viewable by literally everyone including their parents, their friends, possible future significant other, universities or employers,” he said.

Websites such as Facebook and Twitter have always had delete functions, but that is not a common feature on the Internet, and those websites have no control over what people do with the content if it’s captured or downloaded by a third party.

The “Eraser Law” does not allow minors to petition for content to be taken down if it’s posted or re-posted by a third party.

The effectiveness of the law, which goes into effect January 1, 2015, remains to be seen. ♦