Bill Stipulating an ‘Age Appropriate Design Code’ Begins Its World Tour

Mike Masnick, Techdirt:

Yesterday I wrote about California’s AB 2273 bill and how it is impossible to comply with, censorial, and dangerous. From what I’ve heard it’s likely to pass today, and Governor Newsom may sign it soon. The bill seems to have taken many people by surprise, and at this late moment they’re asking how the hell such a bill could have come about. I’ve been wondering the same thing myself, and started digging — and am really confused. Because, as far as I can tell, THE BILL CAME FROM A UK BARONESS, and California politicians were like “ok, yeah, cool, we’ll just take your bill and make it law here.”

This is just one of three worrisome bills passed recently in California, all of which will likely be signed into law. But I wanted to focus on it for two reasons:

  1. the origins of this bill are pretty wild, and

  2. according to an interview, linked to by Masnick, with the Baroness in question, a copy of the bill is coming soon to Canadian lawmakers’ desks.

The bill seems painful for website operators to implement. To comply with its mandates, website operators whose services may be accessed by a minor must consider the health and well-being of children in administrating their website. That all sounds fine. But the terms of the bill are so vague as to potentially snare any website into creating child-friendly policies or require some verification of age.

And that is where Canada comes in. You might not have heard of MindGeek, but you have probably heard of Pornhub, one of its brands. The Montreal-based company runs several popular porn websites and also owns an age verification solution called AgeID which, in 2019, was tapped to work with adult websites in the U.K. when the British government began its quest to mandate age verification online.

It is plausible to me that Canadian regulators will see both the child protective promises of the bill and a likely Canadian beneficiary as compelling reasons to at least seriously consider it. I hope that is not the case but, unfortunately, policymakers here have not had a good track record when it comes to internet regulation.