SAN JOSE, Calif.—Today, NetChoice announced it will be suing the State of California in federal court for declaratory and injunctive relief from a recently passed law known as Assembly Bill 2273, the “Age-Appropriate Design Code Act.”
This law’s careless attempt to control online speech threatens minors’ privacy and safety, steamrolls the First Amendment, and conflicts with federal law. This law merely expands government power over online speech under the guise of protecting children.
“Today, we’re suing California to protect the First Amendment and privacy of families online,” said NetChoice Vice President and General Counsel Carl Szabo. “By abandoning the First Amendment and forcing all websites to track and store information on both children and adults, California risks closing the internet and putting the digital safety of all Americans, and especially children, in jeopardy.”
As NetChoice v. Bonta explains, AB 2273 violates the First Amendment many times over: it compels and chills speech, infringes editorial rights, limits adults’ access to constitutional speech, and relies on undefined terms to grant California unchecked power to coerce moderation decisions the government prefers.
The lawsuit also notes how AB 2273 disregards existing federal protections for children online, which are outlined in the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA), and violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
“California is expanding government control over online speech by using children’s privacy as a front,” continued Szabo. “AB 2733 isn’t actually focused on privacy; it’s focused on regulating online content. Following in the footsteps of Florida and Texas, California is trampling on the First Amendment to gain more control over speech online. We are here to stand for the Constitution and protect freedom of expression online.”
Main takeaways for NetChoice v. Bonta:
- The state of California is violating the First Amendment and privacy of families online.
- AB 2273 instructs sites how to manage constitutionally protected speech, not how to ensure child safety online. It echoes similar violations in Texas and Florida’s anti-bias laws for failing to honor the First Amendment.
- AB 2273 undermines children’s privacy by forcing sites, regardless of how secure they are, to track and store information identifying which users are minors. Users will need to turn over far more personal data just to visit a webpage, creating more sensitive data that can be targeted by child predators and hackers.
- By violating the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, California risks closing off the open internet, hindering innovation, and creating a patchwork of inconsistent laws governing online speech.
- Parents and guardians, not the government, are best suited to decide how their families use the internet and engage with online content. AB 2273 takes away that freedom and puts it into the hands of the state.