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One year since the signing of the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act 

Prevent Child Sexual Abuse Programme / Partner story

Photo credit: Thomas Park, Unsplash 

ICYMI: One year since the signing of the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act 

The California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act (AADC) marks a milestone move toward protecting Californian children’s privacy and safety online.  

The AADC has the potential to set the precedence for legislation in other states and the nation. It imposes new requirements for organisations offering online services, products, or features likely to be accessed by children under 18. This means that where children’s interests compete or conflict with commercial interests, under the AADC, children’s interests win.   

The bipartisan law was modelled on the UK legislation by the same name (Age-Appropriate Design Code Act). The UK legislation was championed and co-drafted by our partner, 5Rights Foundation, a UK-based not-for-profit organisation working to ensure that the freedoms, protections, and privileges that young people are entitled to offline, also apply online. The UK Age-Appropriate Design Code, enforceable since September 2021, requires online products likely to be used by children to adjust their operations and design to improve their online safety.  

For example, TikTok and Instagram have since barred interactions between children and adults not known to them, and TikTok has stopped late-hours push notifications to all under 18s. Google has made ‘SafeSearch’ the default browser mode for all children. Meanwhile, YouTube has turned off video autoplay and set break and bedtime reminders for kids. 5Rights’ founder and chair, Baroness Beeban Kidron, has called for global action, noting that without similar measures elsewhere, protections for children will remain voluntary in markets outside the UK.  

In line with the UK law, the California law offers all young people under the age of 18 a data protection regime that determines the features and impact of the digital services they are using. The law calls for the establishment of the California Children’s Data Protection Working Group to deliver a report to the Legislature regarding best practices for the implementation of the Code. 

The AADC responds to the reality of risk children face online, and will help ensure a better, brighter online future for children.  It goes into effect 1 July 2024. 

This grant falls under Oak’s Prevent Child Sexual Abuse (PCSA) programme, and within that our priority funding area of ensuring safe digital environments, which works to support advocacy and regulation of the online space to protect children from sexual abuse. You can read more about our partners 5Rights, and Fairplay, and their efforts to promote children’s safety online by clicking on their names. You can find out more about PCSA by clicking here and more about the AADC platform here.