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California’s law restricting companies’ use of children’s information online has been struck down by a federal judge

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — A federal judge has halted implementation of a California law aimed at limiting companies’ use of information collected from young Internet users to protect the privacy of minors.

U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman issued a preliminary injunction Monday, saying the legislation restricts companies’ use of the Internet in ways the state has not been able to justify.

The law requires companies to report to the state any product or service they offer on the Internet that is likely to be accessed by persons under the age of 18, and to submit plans to address any harm minors might suffer , to limit. It would also ban companies from collecting most types of personal information about young Internet users, including their physical location.

“The state has no right to enforce obligations that would essentially force private companies to serve as government censors,” Freeman wrote.

The judge wrote that while she is “acutely aware of the countless harms that can happen to children on the Internet,” the law excludes for-profit companies from restrictions that do not apply to other users, such as government agencies or nonprofits.

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The bill from Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, a Democrat from Oakland, passed unanimously by both legislative houses last year and would go into effect in July 2024.

It was challenged by NetChoice, a commercial association whose members include Google, Amazon, Meta and TikTok. In a statement to the San Francisco Chronicle, NetChoice attorney Chris Marchese praised the judge’s decision “to prevent regulators from violating the free speech and online privacy rights of Californians, their families and their businesses as our case progresses.”

Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office said it was disappointed with the ruling and declined to comment further. The state could appeal the order to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, the Chronicle said.

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