Sweeping Children’s Online Safety Bill Is Passed in California

Social media and game platforms often use recommendation algorithms, find-a-friend tools, smartphone notices and other enticements to keep people glued online. But the same techniques may pose risks to scores of children who have flocked to online services that were not specifically designed for them.

Now California lawmakers have passed the first statute in the nation requiring apps and sites to install guardrails for users under 18. The new rules would compel many online services to curb the risks that certain popular features — like allowing strangers to message one another — may pose to child users.

The bill, the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act, could herald a shift in the way lawmakers regulate the tech industry. Rather than wade into heated political battles over online content, the legislation takes a practical, product-safety approach. It aims to hold online services to the same kinds of basic safety standards as the automobile industry — essentially requiring apps and sites to install the digital equivalent of seatbelts and airbags for younger users.

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California lawmakers pass landmark children’s online safety bill
California state lawmakers passed a major children’s online safety measure on Tuesday that would require digital platforms to vet whether new products may pose harm to kids and teens before rolling them out and to offer privacy guardrails to younger users by default.

Children’s safety advocates say the legislation, the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act, would make the state a national leader in setting protections for kids and teens online. Its passage is part of a growing push nationwide to hold tech companies like Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat accountable for how their services may affect children’s mental health and safety.

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