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Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

AB 1545 to Deal with Internet Safety: Kids Internet Design and Safety Act

This bill also sets limits on the ads that can appear in front of kids

By Chris Micheli, April 13, 2021 12:29 pm

Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) amended her Assembly Bill 1545 to deal with internet safety and platform operators. “This bill will create strong protections for California’s children by requiring online platforms that target them to block manipulative design features, which lure kids into sharing data or making online purchases,” Wicks said on her website.

The bill would add Title 1.81.7 (commencing with Section 1798.300) to Part 4 of Division 3 of the Civil Code.

Section One of the bill would provide five legislative findings and declarations which note that children are increasingly consuming digital entertainment on the internet and are uniquely susceptible to online manipulation. Online companies gather, analyze, and use data for behavioral marketing directed at children and these companies employ strategies such as neuromarketing to impact consumer behavior.

Section Two of the bill would add Title 1.81.7 which would be titled, “Kids Internet Design and Safety Act” or the “KIDS Act.” It would specify that the purpose of this title is to keep children safe and protect their interests on the internet. The bill would define the terms “content” (streaming media in which data from a video file is continuously delivered via the internet) and “covered user” (a California resident under age 13).

In addition, a “covered user” must be logged into an account that was created by that person’s parent or guardian and the account must explicitly identify the primary user as a person under age 13. Furthermore, “directed to children” is defined as content that a reasonable person would believe was intended to primarily appeal to children under age 13, a channel consisting mainly of such content, and that the content is viewed by a “covered user.”

AB 1545 would also define the terms “operator” (a person who operates a platform involving commerce within the state) and “platform” (a website, online service, etc. that is operated for commercial purposes and whose content is directed to children). The bill would prohibit an operator of a platform from incorporating any of the following features with respect to content viewable by a covered user without first obtaining consent from the parent or guardian of the covered user:

  • An auto-play setting that, without input from the covered user, commences additional video content directly following the video content initially selected by the covered user.
  • Push alerts that are not for safety or security purposes.
  • A display of the quantity of positive engagement or feedback that a covered user has received from other users.
  • Any design feature or setting that allows a covered user to make purchases, submit content, or communicate with other individuals on the platform.

In addition, an operator of a platform shall not display to a covered user advertising related to alcohol, tobacco, or products containing nicotine. An operator of a platform would also be prohibited from directing content to children that would promote, amplify, or otherwise encourage the consumption of content or advertising that involves any of the following:

  • Sexual material.
  • Physical or emotional violence, including bullying.
  • Adult activities.

In addition, AB 1545 would require an operator of a platform with content directed to children to do all of the following:

  • Allow a parent or guardian to create an account for that person’s child who is under 13 years of age.
  • Provide a parent or guardian with parental controls that enable the parent or guardian to filter and block content viewable by the covered user for whom the parent or guardian created an account.
  • Incorporate visual indicators that distinguish commercial content from noncommercial content.
  • Publish and maintain a publicly accessible digital record of the content viewable or playable by a covered user.

AB 1545 would specify that an operator of a platform must implement a mechanism for users to report to the platform suspected violations of this section of the law. Effective January 1, 2026, the Attorney General would be required to do all of the following:

  • On or before June 1, 2027, and annually thereafter, conduct an audit of platforms to determine compliance with this title.
  • The Attorney General shall audit 10 of the platforms that have the highest total number of covered users in the previous calendar year.
  • The Attorney General may contract with a private entity to conduct, or assist with conducting, the audit required by this subdivision.
  • Adopt regulations as necessary to implement this title.

Finally, the bill would provide that a violation of this new section of law would constitute an unfair competition under Business and Professions Code Section 17200.

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