California Senate Passes Three Awful Bills For The Internet; Will Newsom Sign Them?
from the california-stabs-the-internet dept
Unfortunately, last night, the California Senate passed some horribly dangerous bills that we’ve been warning about the past few weeks — and they’re heading to Governor Newsom’s desk for signing. It seems likely he will sign them, even as that will be a huge, and dangerous mistake. First up was AB 2273 the “Age Appropriate Design Code” that we’ve been calling attention to over the past week. The bill has massive problems, is literally impossible to comply with, was written in part by a UK Baroness with ties to Hollywood, will only serve to benefit privacy lawyers and a giant porn company, and could lead to websites requiring a facial scan for access (and that’s according to the bill’s supporters!). It’s a bad bill.
But no politician wants to hand political opponents the talking point of “and s/he voted against a bill to protect the children online!” And thus… the bill passed 30 to 0. Not a single Senator voted against it.
This is super annoying.
Another bill that passed was AB 587. I wrote about this one a few weeks ago as well. It was pitched as a “transparency” bill, but as Eric Goldman noted, was functionally identical to the Texas and Florida laws that were booted for being unconstitutional. My own complaint was more direct. Under 587, websites now basically have to teach disinfo peddlers how best to game their systems, and can’t do much to deal with them without violating the law.
This one passed 31 to 3.
There was also a third bill, AB 2879, which effectively tries to ban bad people “cyberbullying” online. We only had time to mention that one in passing, because we’re just a small operation here, and there’s only so much we can do — especially when none of the big free speech / open internet organizations seemed willing to speak up against these bills.
It seems likely that Newsom will sign all of these bills — though now would be a good time for California residents and companies to call the governor’s office and tell him how much damage these bills will do to the internet, to free speech, and to privacy.
These bills are fundamentally flawed. They are written by people who do not understand how the internet works at all — and they will backfire. The “protect the kids” bill will encourage dystopian facial scanning or other age verification checks, despite the enormous harm such systems do. It will enable so much harm and make it more difficult for the internet to function. At least for the companies that abide by the bill. Many others will almost certainly ignore it because it’s impossible to comply with.
The “transparency” bill is a complete and utter mess. It totally misunderstands fundamental aspects of how trust and safety works. It misunderstands the dynamic nature of threats and bad actors, and basically requires websites to provide an unchangeable roadmap for how to abuse any website in a manner where the website’s hands are tied behind their back if they want to change their policies.
The cyberbullying bill is based on a fantasy, and will actually make it that much more difficult for websites to deal with cyberbullying.
And, now you can bet that other states — including Texas and Florida — will model their own internet-attacking bills on these California bills as well.
It’s not good.
It’s frustrating and exhausting beyond all belief that California is doing this. And that there have been very, very few voices speaking up about it. It’s that kind of apathy that lets these bills sail through.