Very recently, Californian Governor Gavin Newsom stated that he had signed legislation placing tight limits on websites "likely to be accessed" by children.
The measure represents a loss for tech titans who spent hundreds of millions of dollars campaigning on the bill, which creates new limitations on how firms may gather and use personal data, as well as new rules in how they contact youngsters.
However, Judge Beth Freeman has delivered a judgment today, granting a preliminary injunction to tech industry organization NetChoice. The judge opined that the statute in question is likely to infringe upon the protections afforded by the First Amendment.
This recent instance is one of several state-level internet rules that have been temporarily halted while ongoing litigation, including those measures that are anticipated to be reviewed by the Supreme Court.
The objective of the CAADCA is to enhance the current legal framework, such as the federal COPPA regulations, which dictate the parameters of data collection from children on websites.
However, Judge Freeman expressed objections to numerous parts of the legislation, contending that they might potentially infringe upon the protection of legitimate expression.
Freeman asserted that while the Act's primary objective of safeguarding children in the online realm is undeniably significant, NetChoice has presented compelling evidence suggesting that the constitutional validity of the CAADCA's provisions, designed to fulfill this objective, is questionable.
Freeman references the arguments put out by legal scholar Eric Goldman, who posited that the implementation of this rule would necessitate the establishment of obstacles that would affect both children and adults.
The verdict raises concerns regarding the necessity of websites to estimate the ages of their visitors in order to identify users who are underage. The stated objective of the provision is to reduce the quantity of data gathered on young users.
However, Freeman argues that its implementation may include the use of intrusive technologies such as facial scans or the analysis of biometric data, paradoxically necessitating users to provide additional personal information.
The legislation provides websites with an out by requiring that all user data collecting adhere to the standards for minors, but Freeman determined that this would also stifle legally protected expression as one of the goals of the statute is to prevent targeted advertising that would expose children to inappropriate information.
Data and privacy protections intended to shield children from harmful content, if applied to adults, will also shield adults from that same content.- Beth Freeman
California has enacted several legislative measures aimed at overseeing online material, while legal disputes, such as the lawsuit launched by X (formerly known as Twitter) against a statute pertaining to the moderation of hate speech on websites, are still in progress.
However, courts in other jurisdictions have reached the conclusion that some legislation at the state level is likely to be in violation of the Constitution. In August, a distinct court issued an injunction against legislation mandating age verification for internet pornography, contending that it would entail intrusive data gathering and impede adults' ability to access expression protected by the constitution.
On the same day, an Arkansas bill that aimed to limit the access of minor users to social media platforms was halted.
In a more recent development, the Supreme Court has taken action to impede a Texas prohibition on extensive online moderation, initiating a contentious dispute that holds the potential to establish the extent of states' authority over the internet.
The Biden administration has strongly advocated for the Supreme Court to invalidate the fundamental elements of this statute, as well as a like law in Florida, in the previous month.