Judge blocks California children’s digital privacy law from taking effect

A U.S. District Judge granted a technology trade group NetChoice a preliminary injunction in its lawsuit against California over a children’s online safety law Monday.

The preliminary injunction blocks California from enforcing the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act (CAADCA), which puts limits on data collection from minors and sets the highest default privacy settings for children. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) a year ago.

“The Court finds that although the stated purpose of the Act—protecting children when they are online—clearly is important, NetChoice has shown that it is likely to succeed on the merits of its argument that the provisions of the CAADCA intended to achieve that purpose do not pass constitutional muster,” U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman wrote in her ruling.  “Specifically, the Court finds that the CAADCA likely violates the First Amendment.”

NetChoice originally sued California at the end of last year, arguing that the California law would “harm” children instead of protecting them online. It also said it would push online businesses to “over-moderate content” resulting in restricting information for users of all ages.

“The law violates the First Amendment by chilling constitutionally protected speech and by infringing on the editorial rights of websites, platforms, and apps of all sizes and ideologies,” NetChoice Litigation Center director Chris Marchese said in a statement after the signing of the bill.

This isn’t the only legal challenge California is facing over legislation targeting social media. Elon Musk’s X Corp. sued over a recent content moderation law in the Golden State earlier this month.

In a statement on their website, NetChoice said they “appreciate” the court’s decision to block the law.

“We look forward to seeing the law permanently struck down and online speech and privacy fully protected,” Marchese said.

In a statement emailed to The Hill, California Attorney General Robert Bonta’s (D) office said they are “disappointed by the decision and will respond in court as appropriate” but “have no additional comment.”

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