Apparently California has just passed a law which would require all websites to remove any content that was posted by a minor at that minor’s request. I don’t want to spend too much time on this, because it’s just so incredibly stupid. This article even points out the exact problem with such a proposal, but then quickly brushes it aside and changes the topic.
Adding this ridiculously burdensome requirement to websites that aren’t well positioned to easily implement it will simply result in those sites escaping the requirement in the easiest way possible – by not allowing any minors to access their websites. Of course, as we all know, it’s also burdensome to create a system where someone has to prove they’re over 18, so the net result of this bill will simply be that all websites where users can post content (and “content” could be something as simple as comments on an article or youtube video) will ask the classic “How old are you?” question that kids have lied about to access porn sites for over a decade.
And guess what? Kids aren’t that stupid. They understand that if you want through the wall, you just say that you were born in 1975 and presto – the entire Internet is now available for you! But what happens when you post something embarrassing and then ask the website to remove it because you’re a kid and therefore entitled to special protections? Well, you just admitted to lying about your age. Congratulations, your account will be immediately deleted.
This is already standard practice on many websites, only the cut-off age is 13 rather than 18. I might be dating myself here, but I distinctly remember when this happened. Originally, there were tons of websites that would allow you to create accounts and post messages that would never once ask you for your age. But alas, then the government came in to “protect the children.” New burdensome regulations were passed requiring that websites would not be allowed to collect certain information from anyone under 13. So how did the websites respond? By carefully examining all of their user profiles and creating an entirely separate system for 12 year olds? Of course not! They responded by requiring people to provide an age when they registered for an account, not granting an account to anyone who claimed to be under 13, and instantly banning anyone who ever implied that they were lying about being 13 or over.
There’s absolutely no reason that the same thing won’t happen here. Reddit and tumblr and wordpress aren’t going to create an entirely separate content management system for people who happen to be between the ages of 13 and 18. They’re just going to say “This site is for people 18 and over only” and all the 13 year olds will happily lie and say they are, and because they’re lying, they become ineligible for the special protection that this new law requires. The California nanny-state fails, yet again.