On Thursday, Spencer Cox, who is the governor of Utah, signed laws that regulate the use of social media by minors. The new laws require parents to consent to their children’s use of social media, those who are under the age of 18. Although Utah is the first state in the nation to pass these laws, four other states including Ohio, Minnesota, Connecticut, and Arkansas are considering similar laws.
Two new Utah laws, H.B. 311 and S.B. 152 under the new Utah Social Media Regulation Act, have been passed and they come into effect on March 1, 2024. If social media companies are not in compliance by this date, they might be subject to civil and criminal penalties.
As per the Utah laws, social media companies have to verify the age of a resident of the state who sets up a profile on social media. Minors who wish to set up a profile need to get consent from their parents. Social media companies are required to give parents access to posts and messages in their children’s accounts. A 10.30 p.m. to 6.30 a.m. curfew is also set. The laws want to protect children from both targeted ads and features that are addictive,
According to a report on NBC, Utah state Sen. Michael McKell said that this was a time “in American history where mental health has been so problematic” and that they hoped to see action across the nation.
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State Rep. Jordan Teuscher, who co-sponsored one of the bills, said that social media companies hired many lobbyists to scuttle the bill, but they were unable to do so as the legislature could not be deterred from their objective.
Critics of the law call it an overreach and say that its effects would be felt outside Utah’s borders. Ari Cohn, free speech counsel for TechFreedom, which is a tech policy think tank, told the outlet that the social media companies would have to age verify everyone to comply with the law. Cohn also said that it could lead to fears of retribution for posts, potential abuse by parents, equity issues and more.
Congress currently has two pieces of legislation that could restrict social media access by minors. It includes a minimum age for the use of social media, without parental consent.
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