January 13, 2011

Facebook Lobbied to Kill Bill Aimed at Social Media, USA TODAY

 SAN FRANCISCO — Just as it seeks to influence lawmaking in Washington, Facebook has moved into California's state capital to protect its interests.

And despite hiring its first lobbyist in Sacramento only seven months ago, Facebook already has flexed its muscle there.

The company spent more than $6,600 lobbying California officials to kill a proposed Social Networking Privacy Act, which would impose civil penalties on social networks displaying home addresses and phone numbers of users under 18 years old, according to disclosures filed with the California secretary of State.



The bill was introduced by Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, in February and passed by the Senate in April before ultimately meeting opposition, and dying, in the State Assembly.


"I was shocked it was defeated and am determined to try again," Corbett says.

The bill could be reintroduced this year, says Corbett, who has talked to Facebook about her legislation.

"This is a very serious issue that needs to be addressed — the security of young people," says Corbett, who adds that the bill was supported by law enforcement, victims rights groups and privacy advocates. "It is an important goal to stop the posting of their addresses. I can't think of one viable reason to post it."

Facebook, which in June hired its first lobbyist in California, William Gonzalez, says a handful of safety organizations — Enough Is Enough®, ConnectSafely, Stop Child Predators and Internet Keep Safe Coalition — voiced concerns with Corbett's bill.

"We were concerned the unintended consequences would be the incentive for minors to be deceptive about their age and, in so doing, lose the many protections in place (to) protect their personal information," Enough Is Enough® President Donna Rice Hughes said. Facebook supports online safety legislation, including a bill from former state senator George Runner, R-Antelope Valley, Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes says.

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