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California Lawmakers Pass Landmark Kids Online Safety Bill

If signed into law, it'll require social media companies to boost protections for users under 18.

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California lawmakers have passed legislation that aims to provide sweeping online protections for kids and teens under 18 years old. The state Senate on Monday passed AB 2273 -- the California Age Appropriate Design Code Act -- in a 33-0 vote, after it previously passed in the state Assembly. 

The new rules aim to hold social media companies and other online services accountable for protecting kids and teens who use their services, requiring them to curb the risks posed by things like messaging strangers and to limit the collection and use of minors' data. Companies that violate the rules could face fines of up to $7,500 per affected child. The bill is modeled after the Online Safety Bill in the United Kingdom. 

The new rules will make "the digital world safer for CA's kids. Period," tweeted Buffy Wicks, a Democrat in the California Assembly who co-sponsored the bill. 

Critics of the legislation have reportedly argued that the proposed rules are too broad and vague, making it difficult for businesses to comply. "The requirement that companies consider the 'best interests' of children is incredibly difficult to interpret," wrote industry association TechNet and the California Chamber of Commerce in a letter to legislators in April, according to The New York Times. 

Digital privacy group The Electronic Frontier Foundation has also raised concerns about the legislation, saying the rules could lead "platforms to set up elaborate age-verification systems for everyone, meaning that all users would have to submit personal data and submit to more corporate surveillance," the Times reported.

The bill still needs to be signed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who, the Times said, hasn't taken a public stance on the legislation. If signed into law, the new rules would take effect in 2024. 

A spokesman for the governor's office said Newsom will evaluate the bill when it reaches his desk.