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California Gives Kids a Way to Erase Their Scandalous Social-Media Posts. Sort Of.

A new law gives people under the age of 18 an 'eraser button' to delete embarrassing, crude or cruel online posts that could follow them into adulthood and employment.
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Employers in the state of California may soon have a harder time digging up dirt on young employees and interns. Or at least that's the hope.

California this week became the first state to pass a law that forces companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter to delete the online information of minors who request it. The law essentially gives people under the age of 18 an "eraser button" so that their crude, cruel or embarrassing social-media and web posts won't follow them into adulthood.

“This is a groundbreaking protection for our kids who often act impetuously with postings of ill-advised pictures or messages before they think through the consequences. They deserve the right to remove this material that could haunt them for years to come,” California Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg, (D-Sacramento), said in a statement.

While Facebook and Twitter already allow users to remove posts, under the new rule, all social-media sites will have to offer ways for young users in California to either delete posts or request a deletion.

What's unclear is whether anything will truly change when the law takes effect on January 1, 2015. After all, the law demands that companies remove requested items from public view, but doesn't request the items be removed from servers, meaning the information is still being stored somewhere. The enforcement of the ban is also murky, as it requires that sites know which users are truly under 18 and living in California, and which are not.

Also, there are limitations with what material can be requested for removal. It appears the law covers only content that a person has generated himself. For instance, if a scandalous photo of you has been posted by someone else, your requests to have it deleted wouldn't be covered by the law. The law also doesn't apply to people 18 or over seeking to remove posts made when they were minors, according to the San Francisco Chronicle

At the very least, the new law is another sign that the government is trying to make sense of social-media behavior as it relates to the real world. The move comes just a week after a U.S. appeals court ruled that a Facebook Like is protected under the First Amendment and can't be held against you by an employer or anyone else.

Related: 3 Annoying Social-Media Mistakes Businesses Need to Avoid