California has become the first state to enact what is nicknamed an “online erase button law,” a statute requiring online publishers to allow teens the opportunity to erase web posts.
And while the opportunity to “erase” web posts may generally be viewed positively in Idaho, the idea of a new law requiring that the opportunity be extended is subject to some disagreement.
“I’d be generally favorable to the idea,” said Sen. Steve Thayn, R-Emmett. “I’d at least want to consider it further.”
Last month Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed what is officially known as SB 568 into law. Supporters say the law is intended to help protect teens from bullying and embarrassment, and from possibly damaging their college and career pursuits because of something they may have posted online.
Most major social media web operations—including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Vine—already allow users of any age to delete their posts, including photos, video content and comments. California's "eraser button" law will require this policy for all websites with users in the state.
The new law also prohibits youth-oriented websites or those that know they have users who are under-age minors from advertising products that are not legally purchased and used by minors, which would include alcohol and tobacco. Websites will not be required to delete re-postings by a third party of the minor's original post.
But do web postings actually pose problems for teens and young adults?
“They absolutely can become a big problem,” said Suzi Billington, director for academic success and access programs at the University of Idaho (Moscow campus). “It’s a huge issue that our advisers address.”
Billington directs operations at the U of I’s career center. She told IdahoReporter.com that “even though students are getting better about this, more and more employers are looking to social media postings as a means of screening prospective job applicants and the language and images that a person posts are definitely fair game. Some students fail to understand that what may be acceptable to their own generation may be unacceptable to an older generation. We tell them that, for example, if you’re not willing to clean up your Facebook postings, then at least limit the access settings on your account. Access really is the key here.”
The Idaho Department of Education does not list on its website any official policy of appropriate online conduct for the state’s K-12 students, although some local school districts in the state address online postings in the context of “student harassment” and “cyber-bullying” policies.
That’s the policy of the Coeur d’Alene Public Schools, according to district spokesperson Laura Rumpler. “Cyber-bullying includes, but is not limited to, using any electronic communication device to convey a message in any format (video, audio, texts, photos and so forth) that is intended to intimidate or harass,” she told IdahoReporter.com.
But as for a state law requiring the ability to “erase” online postings, not all Idaho policymakers are as open to the idea as Thayn. “I personally applaud companies like Facebook and Twitter that voluntarily allow underage users to rethink their posts because, in my opinion, it's the right thing to do,” said Rep. Kelley Packer, R-McCammon.
Packer, however, doesn’t think the state of Idaho needs to get involved. “Government already over-regulates too many areas of our lives and we don't need another encroachment.”
Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, sees the matter differently.
“Digital bullying is a growing problem and it is not limited to minors, adults engage in it as well,” Goedde told IdahoReporter.com. “I also believe that people who engage in this kind of behavior should have to assume responsibility for their behavior. If deleting online posts ends up undermining to the degree to which people are held responsible, I may have reservations with supporting a proposal like this.”
Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, is clearly opposed to the legislation idea. “I have no interest in sponsoring something like this,” she said to IdahoReporter.com. ‘We need to figure out how to get kids to think before they hit ‘send.’ That’s a task for parents, not for the state.”