Social Media Law Lawmakers playing catchup with technology

Social Media Law Lawmakers playing catchup with technology

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Today’s guest post is from Eli Murphy with Abacus Law.   Eli discusses The Evolution of Social Media Law

As technology continues to proliferate and social media monoliths like Twitter and Facebook reach an unprecedented number of users (500 million and 1.15 billion users respectively) more and more cases of teens and social media gone awry are making their way to the forefront of lawmaker’s agendas.  For examples you need to look no further than recent news headlines.

In the case of Hannah Anderson, the teen who was allegedly abducted from her California home last August, the internet and news outlets were ablaze with criticism as Anderson took to her various social media accounts days after being rescued where she fielded several questions relating to the incident as well as taking several candid photos of herself.  Next is the case of former NFL player Brian Holloway who has found himself in a difficult situation after he caught wind on Twitter that his summer home was being used as the location for a massive party involving hundreds of teens in the upstate New York area.  Immediately following the incident, Holloway created a website around the event where he identified many of the party’s attendees and posed a call for action to help raise awareness of teens engaging in these types of risky behaviors.

As incidents such as these continue to pop up, lawmakers in states across the US have been working on finding a solution so that the thousands of teens involved in such cases do not permanently tarnish their reputations and potentially harm their chances at succeeding later in life.  In what comes as a landmark move for the United States, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that would allow minors with social media accounts to effectively remove any content posted that could be potentially damaging to their reputation.

The bill, which was introduced by California Senate president Tim Darrel Steinberg encompasses more than just the buzz-worthy “delete” button.  The bill also seeks to introduce an amendment to the way internet marketers can target audiences, in this case, minors.  Under this new legislation which is set to roll out in 2015, products that are otherwise deemed illegal to sell to adolescents in an real-world retail setting can no longer be targeted to this same demographic in an internet setting.  In a recent interview, Brown stated,

“It will be up to the Internet companies to have appropriate filters so that an ad cannot get through to them on their Facebook page or whatever other site may be exclusive to them.”

While there are the obvious standouts such as alcohol and tobacco, other more subliminal marketing tactics will now be eradicated through the proposed bill.  For example, a female adolescent may be browsing an online retail store for women’s clothing.  Under current legislation, this information can then be passed off to other third parties where the individual can be uniquely targeted based on their previous search queries.  This of course is nothing new and has been going on for quite some time.  Simply take a look at the ads that show up on various sidebars on websites you visit.  Chances are these ads will bear some correlation to sites and searches in your browser history.  The problem with this arises when that same adolescent is now the target for diet pills or plastic surgery companies simply based of her choice to visit an online clothing retailer.

However, the bulk of the bill, and the one that has garnered the most attention nationally, is the delete feature that will be added to these social media platforms.  By 2015, sites like Facebook and Twitter must comply with the new legislation, but so far, only for profiles that are created in the state of California.  While these sites currently have delete features built in, the 2015 bill would seek to clarify their sometimes “tricky” locations and ensure that once this information has in fact been deleted, that it can no longer be called up and utilized in these targeted marketing situations.

One can’t help but wonder what ties this has to the most recent, high profile cases that have swarmed media outlets, particularly in the case of Hannah Anderson who is coincidentally a resident of California.  While the law will remove these types of post and pictures from public view, it does not require these sites to completely remove the content in question from the databases.

With mobile platforms unremitting influx of new gadgetry and applications, the “delete button bill” is almost guaranteed to undergo some type of change before the 2015 rollout. What that looks like remains to be seen.

Do you have any opinions on the proposed bill? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Eli Murphy is an editor who works with AbacusLaw 


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