SACRAMENTO -- Minors in California will have a chance to remove embarrassing photographs and potentially damaging postings on social media websites under a new law that will be the first of its kind in the country.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB568 by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg this week.
Its central purpose is to give those under age 18 a second chance after they post something and later regret it.
Under the law, which takes effect in January 2015, website operators would be required to erase postings when asked by the minor to do so. Steinberg's office said California would be the first state with such a requirement, although it would not apply if the content had been reposted by a third party.
In a statement, the Sacramento Democrat said the law gives minors a do-over if they post something without thinking through the consequences. Photographs or statements posted by teenagers could haunt them later when they apply for college or jobs.
"I think this will hopefully give adolescents in particular some pause," said Eileen Espejo, director of media and health policy for Children Now, an Oakland-based nonprofit that supports the legislation. "Think about what you put on a website ... because it can live on beyond you."
She said she hopes other states take notice and follow California's lead.
But some experts said the law is worded too vaguely and may cause more problems than it solves.
"The law only allows minors to remove their content from the site where they posted it; and the removal right doesn't apply where someone else has copied or reposted the content on that site," Santa Clara University law professor Eric Goldman wrote in a blog post for Forbes, in which he said the law provides "the illusion of control."
The law will apply to all social media websites used by children, including those established mainly for photo-sharing. Facebook, the largest social media website, already allows its users to delete postings no matter how dated they might be and makes that ability clear, said Brandon Lepow, a company spokesman. Twitter offers a similar ability.
The law also includes restrictions for online marketing to minors.
It prohibits websites from targeting minors with advertisements for products and services that are otherwise illegal for them, including tobacco, alcohol and firearms. That also applies to services and products banned for minors under state law, including artificial tanning, permanent tattoos, certain dietary supplements, spray paint and fireworks deemed dangerous.
Website operators also could not compile the personal information of minors and give that to a third party for marketing or advertising purposes. That would protect only registered users of the website, who would have to provide the operator with their date of birth.
Staff writer Brandon Bailey contributed to this story.