OAKLAND, April 24, 2023 — California Attorney General Rob Bonta filed a brief in defense of California’s law requiring companies to prioritize the online privacy, safety, and well-being of children over commercial interests. The brief seeks to block an effort by an online trade association representing companies such as Google, Meta, Amazon, Twitter, and TikTok challenging the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act, a first-in-the-nation law aimed at safeguarding children online. The act requires that businesses that trade in consumers’ personal information and offer products, services, and features likely to be accessed by children proactively protect their young users’ information, and prohibits certain actions that involve the collection and use of that information.
“Businesses do not have a right to children’s data,” said Attorney General Bonta. “This is not about free speech: the companies challenging this law are doing so because they want to continue to make money from our kids’ online activity. In California, it is no longer business as usual when it comes to designing online services, products, and features that are accessed by kids – it’s time to elevate and protect children’s privacy and safety. The bottom line is: our children’s childhood experience should not be for sale, and we are defending the state stepping up to protect our children.”
The California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act was signed into law in 2022 and is modeled after the United Kingdom’s Age Appropriate Design Code, which similarly requires that websites likely to be accessed by children provide privacy protections by default. The Legislature unanimously passed the law, finding that more needs to be done to create a safer online space for children to learn, explore, and play. Despite businesses’ awareness that children use their services, businesses currently design their online services to include features that may be harmful to children, including manipulative techniques to prod them to spend hours on end online or provide personal information beyond what is expected or necessary.
Attorney General Bonta’s brief argues that the court should reject the companies’ efforts to block enforcement of the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act, because:
- The law does not violate these companies’ first amendment rights, since the act does not regulate content, mandate government approval before businesses can act, or restrict what content businesses make accessible to consumers;
- The law is not preempted by federal law because it does not conflict with existing federal law; and
- An injunction would inflict irreparable harm upon California by preventing enforcement of a statute enacted by representatives of the people, and in the public interest to advance the safety and protection of minors.
A copy of the brief filed today can be found here.