Beginning on January 1, 2015, operators of Internet websites, online services, online applications, and mobile applications (together, “Service”) in California will be required to provide a mechanism allowing minors registered with a Service to remove content and information from the operators’ Service that they posted themselves. This so-called “Eraser Button” law (S.B. 568), which was signed into law by the Governor of California on September 23, 2013, covers Service that is directed to minors or operated with actual knowledge that minors are using the sites, services, or apps. The new law requires operators to provide a removal mechanism only to minors registered with the site, service, or app.

Under the new law, operators must (1) notify the registered minor of the existence of the mechanism; (2) provide clear instructions on how to remove or request removal of content; (3) provide a means for the minor to remove or anonymize the content that the minor has posted or request that the operator remove or anonymize it; and (4) provide a disclaimer notice that the removal process does not ensure complete or comprehensive removal.

The law provides for other exceptions, including for content required to be maintained by federal or state law, and content posted by a minor who was paid to post it.

The law also contains advertising and marketing restrictions for operators of Service directed to minors or operated with actual knowledge that minors are using the sites, services, or apps. Specifically, the law prohibits operators from advertising or marketing certain products and services that minors are not permitted to purchase by law, such as firearms, tobacco products, and ultraviolet tanning services. Operators of services directed to minors may comply with the law if the operator notifies its advertising service that it is a site directed to minors. Operators with actual knowledge that a minor is using the Service are in compliance with the law if the operator takes “reasonable actions in good faith designed to avoid” marketing and advertising to the minor.

One of the key questions for entities looking to comply with the law will be whether a site, service, or app is “directed to minors.” The law defines “directed to minors” as “created for the purpose of reaching an audience that is predominately comprised of minors, and is not intended for a more general audience comprised of adults.”8 No service is deemed “directed to minors” solely because it refers or links to another online service directed to minors using information location tools, including a directory, index, reference, pointer, or hypertext link.9