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California's New Landmark Ruling That Protects Children Online: Digital Businesses Be Prepared 

Updated: May 12, 2023

California's New Landmark Ruling That Protects Children Online

The online technology industry is growing exponentially and has become a major part of our daily lives. For this reason, the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act has been introduced to protect children from harmful content on websites by requiring them to comply with the new guidelines.

This legislation aims to protect young people from viewing inappropriate material while also ensuring they can access websites that encourage positive use of technology.

What is the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act?

The California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act (Assembly Bill No. 1350) will require online platforms to analyze algorithms and assess whether they be addictive or cause harm to children. The bill makes California the first state in the US that has passed this type of legislation.

The new law requires companies like Snapchat, Netflix, and Amazon to turn over data about user's behavior on their sites so that researchers can determine whether certain elements of those sites could harm children. The goal is to ensure that design practices aren't unintentionally harmful to kids and teens using these platforms regularly.

What are the requirements for online technology companies?

This code requires that companies take certain steps to protect minors from harmful content and limit their data collection practices. It will be amended from time to time as technology evolves, but according to the FTC, your firm should abide by any code in effect at any given moment during your service's existence.

You are supposed to provide higher privacy settings for users under age 18 than those older than 18 (and provide these higher settings only upon request).

Do not collect location data from users under age 18 without first getting parental consent via email verification or other means approved by the commission on behalf of its members (including any location tracking technologies like GPS).

Stricter privacy to protect the mental health of children

The new law calls for privacy measures to protect children from being tracked online, but the real challenge is to protect them from technology addiction.

The legislature should consider ways to create more opportunities for face-to-face interaction and limit screen time, especially in schools where educators are expected to help students understand what's happening online and develop safe and responsible habits.

The bill shares similarities with the UK's Age-Appropriate Design Code of 2021

The UK legislation extends to all online services and applies to children as young as three years old. It includes rules about not directing children to content that is "inappropriate for their age" or showing them ads for products or services that are not suitable for them.

The California bill also offers guidance on how companies should protect children from seeing adult content online. For example, it recommends using age-verification systems when selling alcohol or tobacco products to minors (something both Facebook and Instagram already do).

The act requires all internet-connected devices to have age-appropriate design parameters restricting access to online content and apps deemed "inappropriate" for children under 18.

In addition, any company that sells or distributes these devices must provide information to the buyer about how they can switch the settings, so they are not accessible to children.

Fines for non-compliance are $7,500 per user

The fine for non-compliance with the law will be $7,500 per user, meaning it could be as much as $750 million for a large social media platform like Facebook or Instagram. The act does not limit fines to just children; it applies to anyone under 18 years old.

This means that the companies fined by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are in trouble again and will probably have to pay more than they would if they had complied with the new law in California.


The California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act is a progressive piece of legislation that will protect children from online technology. It will be enacted starting in 2024, giving online technology companies time to comply with the new law.

If you have anyone under 18 visiting your website, you need to make sure your website complies with this law as well as other data privacy and protection legislation like CCPA and CPRA. To streamline the process of compliance gets Adzapier Consent Management Platform which will automate the process in just a few clicks.

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