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California Privacy Bills Top List of Internet’s Worst Legislation

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Before today, we’ve never selected a state’s entire legislative agenda as the top item on our iAWFUL list of bad Internet laws, because no single state had ever made such a concerted effort to regulate, restrict and repress e-commerce.

California has always had a reputation for being pioneering.

Over the past six months, the Sacramento statehouse has unleashed a torrent of misguided, regressive bills targeted at the heart of the innovation industry that is at the heart of the economic recovery – not only in California, but across the nation.

Individually, none of these bills poses as much threat as the second item on our list – the federal Internet sales tax  that topped the last iAWFUL – but taken together they not only represent a disturbing new trend of regulatory interventionism, but also a serious threat to the Internet economy.

The bills California legislators have introduced this year range from the silly – AB 242’s bizarre requirement that privacy policies be limited to 100 words – to the devastating – AB 257’s unprecedented limitations on how mobile apps can monetize their free services.  And the fallout is not limited to Internet businesses, since retail stores are hit too.  AB 319, for example, would prevent a supermarket from using emails to advertise weekly specials if any ads for wine would go to 17 year-old Californians.

For the birthplace of the Internet to become the home of the nation’s most restrictive Internet regulators wouldn’t just be bad…it would be AWFUL.

Not that the rest of the items on the list are much better. Our primary focus in recent weeks has been on educating lawmakers about the massive problems with the second item on the iAWFUL, the so-called “Marketplace Fairness Act”.

MFA cleared the Senate, thanks to some deft political maneuvering and an aggressive campaign by the big box retailers that stand to benefit from the measure.  But we expect the tide to turn in the House, where lawmakers are already gearing up to ask the hard questions that the bill’s Senate backers preferred to gloss over.

We’ll be taking the iAWFUL list up to Congress, and will hope to notch a defeat of MFA as another win for a resource that has helped push back or fix several pieces of bad legislation over the past four years.

The third item on the list is the mounting push in some states to override consumers’ own choices regarding what happens to their social media accounts when they die. And fourth is an iAWFUL newcomer – a measure moving in Illinois and North Dakota – that would crush a successful online publishing business model by forcing journal publishers to make their work available for free.

The whole list is worth a look. If you’re anything like us, it will put you in a bad mood.  But if we don’t know the threats to the Internet economy, we have no way of preventing awful bills from becoming awful laws.

See what Bloomberg has to say about the list: