California Age Appropriate Design Code Signed Into Law, Uncertainty Rises

The Age Appropriate Design Code has been signed into law by the California governor, creating uncertainty for website owners.

Late last month, we covered a development coming out of California. At the time, the Age Appropriate Design Code passed the Senate 30-0 and made its way to the desk of California governor, Gavin Newsom, for signing. Supporters of the legislation have attempted to reassure website owners that it’s no big deal because websites could just be expected to demand facial recognition scans of every single one of their visitors to comply with the law. It’s a reassurance that is anything but reassuring and only adds to the uncertainty.

The development, of course, is a shocking 180 given that this is the same state that has been fighting to retain network neutrality through the courts. As a result of this bill, the state has effectively thrown their entire internet sector under the bus. While some were holding out hope that Newsom would refuse to sign it – the last ditch effort to save the open internet in the state – that apparently didn’t happen.

News recently surfacing notes that the governor has signed the bill into law:

Because, in this nonsense political climate where moral panics and culture wars are all that matter in politics, politicians are going to back laws that claim to “protect the children,” no matter how much of a lie that is.

The press release includes a quote from Newsom’s wife, who is also a Hollywood documentary filmmaker, similar to the baroness.

“As a parent, I am terrified of the effects technology addiction and saturation are having on our children and their mental health. While social media and the internet are integral to the way we as a global community connect and communicate, our children still deserve real safeguards like AB 2273 to protect their wellbeing as they grow and develop,” said First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom. “I am so appreciative of the Governor, Assemblymember Cunningham, and Assemblymember Wicks’ leadership and partnership to ensure tech companies are held accountable for the online spaces they design and the way those spaces affect California’s children.”

Except that the bill does not create “real safeguards” for children. It creates a massive amount of busywork to try to force companies to dumb down the internet, while also forcing intrusive age verification technologies on tons of websites.

It puts tremendous power in the hands of the Attorney General.

The bill doesn’t go into effect until the middle of 2024 and I would assume that someone will go to court to challenge it, meaning that what this bill is going to accomplish in the short run is California wasting a ton of taxpayer dollars (just as Texas and Florida did) to try to pretend they have the power to tell companies how to design their products.

It’s all nonsense grandstanding and Governor Newsom knows it, because I know that people have explained all this to him. But getting the headlines is more important than doing the right thing.

Because this bill is now law, there is a level of uncertainty that is sweeping through Silicon Valley right now. Right now, the future now hinges on someone stepping forward and filing a lawsuit to challenge the constitutional nature of this law. Many are convinced it is clearly unconstitutional, but it requires someone to step forward to get the ball rolling on this. Given that the law does not take effect until 2024, there is that window of opportunity to put a stop to it and, hopefully, get an injunction from a judge to stop enforcement of this law.

Some might point out that the courts haven’t exactly gotten the worlds greatest reputation. Case in point is the US Supreme Court overruling the US Constitution and allowing the Texas abortion ban law to stand. The problem with that is, well, what other option is there? Intervention at the federal level is unlikely given the political gridlock going on. Repealing the law is going to take far longer (if that is even politically possible). Beyond that, what other options are there? Litigation is the most immediate answer at this point and you’re going to have to go this rout regardless of the odds.

There’s no doubt that this is a really awful situation going on in California right now. This law stands to cause a significant amount of damage to the free and open internet in that state should it go unchallenged. Hopefully, an organization like NetChoice will intervene in this.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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