Utah Governor Spencer Cox recently signed two pieces of legislation requiring social media companies to obtain parental consent for minors to use their platforms. This legislative action follows years of mounting concerns regarding social media addiction’s effect on children and teens.
Governor Cox said in a tweet, “We’re no longer willing to let social media companies continue to harm the mental health of our youth. Today we signed two key bills in our fight against social media companies into law.”
We’re no longer willing to let social media companies continue to harm the mental health of our youth. Today we signed two key bills in our fight against social media companies into law:
— Utah Gov. Spencer J. Cox (@GovCox) March 23, 2023
In his Twitter post, he continued to explain the two pieces of legislation that were signed, “SB152 requires social media companies to verify that users in the state are 18 or older to open an account. Minors will need parental consent to create an account. HB311 prohibits social media companies from using a design or feature that causes addiction for a minor to the company’s social media platform. This bill also makes it easier for people to sue social media companies for damages.”
The governor concluded the post, “Utah’s leading the way in holding social media companies accountable – and we’re not slowing down anytime soon. Check out our new website, socialmedia.utah.gov, where you can learn more about these new laws, the latest research on the effects of social media, and more. Join us in protecting our kids from the harms of social media.”
On Utah’s social media website, it lists the legal measures that are being implemented to protect minors. The website lists things social media companies can’t do:
Starting on March 1, 2024, Senate Bill 152 requires that social media companies:
- Verify the adult age of a Utah resident seeking to maintain or open a social media account;
- get the consent of a parent or guardian for users under age 18;
- allow parents full access to their child’s account;
- create a default curfew setting that blocks access overnight (10:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m.) which can be adjusted by parents;
- prohibit direct messaging by anyone who the child hasn’t followed or friended;
- block underage accounts from search results
In addition, social media companies
- cannot collect a child’s data; and
- cannot target the accounts of children for advertising.
The website also details the penalties that will be imposed on social media companies if they do not adhere to the new laws put in place:
Violations of the “can and cannot do list” may be reported to the Department of Commerce, Division of Consumer Protection which has the authority to fine social media companies up to $2,500 per violation and seek additional remedies through the courts .
In addition, House Bill 311 outlines penalties for social media companies which target users under age 18 with addictive algorithms, including
- a $250,000 fine for social media companies which use addictive design features; and
- a penalty of up to $2,500 per child exposed to an addictive feature (although companies that perform quarterly audits and address violations within 30 days could avoid the fine).
This law also allows parents to sue social media companies directly for the financial, physical, or emotional harms in certain circumstances
For youth under 16, harm would be presumed under the law and the companies would have to prove otherwise.
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