New rules for tech companies- POLITICO

THE BUZZ: California dealt back-to-back blows to the tech industry this week with a pair of bills meant to curb the harmful effects of social media.

If things go according to supporters’ plans, the new policies could ripple out to cause similar restrictions in other states.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday signed Assembly Bill 2273, authored by Assemblymembers Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) and Jordan Cunningham (R-San Luis Obispo), that will set new standards for online spaces often visited by children, like YouTube and TikTok, such as limiting push notifications late at night. As POLITICO’s Sakura Cannestra reported yesterday, the law also restricts the collection and sharing of kids’ personal data, specifically information that’s unrelated to the online platform’s services. It’s modeled after the United Kingdom’s Age Appropriate Design Code.

On Tuesday, the governor also signed a separate bill on content moderation, which came in response to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, and will require social media companies to publish their policies and report to the state data on their enforcement actions against users.

In signing AB 2273, Newsom, a father of four, noted he’s familiar with the issues young people are facing online, saying, “we’re taking aggressive action in California to protect the health and wellbeing of our kids.” In addition to the bill’s authors, he also offered an unexpected compliment to the tech industry, for “pushing these protections and putting the wellbeing of our kids first.”

We say the compliment was unexpected because, for the large part, the legislation was consistently fought by tech giants. Opponents included TechNet, a coalition of dozens of tech companies from Amazon to Zoom. That group, along with the California Chamber of Commerce, Entertainment Software Association, and California Manufacturers & Technology Association, complained that the bill contained a “great deal of subjectivity.”

Industry lobbyists also tried, unsuccessfully, to add some limiting amendments to the bill, like one that would have excluded older teens from the new law. While the 18-year-old age cap made it into the bill’s final form, companies will have a 90-day buffer to make fixes before being fined.

The governor, who has close ties to the tech world, didn’t offer much indication prior to the signing about whether he’d support the bill. Then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s supported the bill. Earlier this month, Pelosi signaled her support as she called for changes to a federal data privacy bill to make sure it wouldn’t undercut the state’s laws.

“States must be allowed to address rapid changes in technology,” she said in her statement.

Wicks and Cunningham celebrated the bill’s signing, saying it will now force Silicon Valley companies to design their products in the best interests of children. But digital rights group Fight for the Future slammed both pieces of legislation on Thursday, saying they will “threaten human rights and free expression online.”

“Requiring age verification also makes it nearly impossible to use online services anonymously, which threatens freedom of expression, particularly for marginalized communities, human rights activists, whistleblowers, and journalists,” the group said of AB 2273. “It’s immoral and dangerous for lawmakers to continue using children as pawns to advance poorly-drafted legislation that does more harm than good.”

BUENOS DÍAS, good Friday morning. The Mosquito Fire burning in El Dorado and Placer Counties has reached more than 64,000 acres, making it the largest wildfire of 2022. As of last night, the blaze was 20 percent contained.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It is very interesting to see Governor Newsom’s 2024 primary campaign extend to Mississippi. But we do suspect that most Mississippians will not be interested in what he is selling.” Cory Custer, deputy chief of staff for external affairs for Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi, one of seven states where Newsom deployed abortion rights billboards on Thursday.