Utah Gov. Spencer Cox Enacts New Social Media Laws
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox has signed two new laws focused on social media companies and the platforms they operate. The new rules would set usage limits for minors and restrict how the platforms target underage users.
The laws — Senate Bill 152 and House Bill 311 — were signed by Cox March 23.
“Our administration is very concerned about how social media is affecting our children,” Cox said in a video. “As leaders and as parents, we have a responsibility to protect our young people.”
Senate Bill 152 requires social media companies take a number of actions to limit access by minors. Companies must verify the adult age of a Utah resident seeking to open a social media account or get consent from a parent or guardian for those under 18. They must also create a default curfew setting to block platform access from 10:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. — which can be adjusted by parents or guardians — and must prohibit direct messaging from anyone the minor has not followed or friended. The companies are also required to block accounts of underage individuals from search results and cannot collect a child’s data or their accounts for advertising.
House Bill 311, meanwhile, outlines penalties for social media companies that target users under the age of 18 with addictive algorithms. These penalties include a $250,000 fine for social media companies that use addictive design features and a penalty of up to $2,500 per child exposed to such a feature. Companies that perform quarterly audits and address violations within 30 days could avoid the fine. The law also allows parents to sue social media companies for harms in certain circumstances.
Both laws will take effect as of March 1, 2024.
Youth rates of depression and other mental health issues are on the rise because of social media companies. As leaders, and parents, we have a responsibility to protect our young people.— Utah Gov. Spencer J. Cox (@GovCox) March 24, 2023
Check out https://t.co/GVAcSi9zHx, our new website where you can learn more about the new… pic.twitter.com/zz5dRkdKVn
In the video message, Cox directed viewers to the state’s new website, socialmedia.utah.gov, for more information about the new laws and resources about the harmful effects of social media.
This legislation follows a January press conference in which Utah Attorney General Sean David Reyes stated that the administration was actively putting social media companies on notice.
“While we hope to work cooperatively with tech companies to address these many concerns, we feel litigation is likely a necessary step to increase the urgency and seriousness of implementing child safeguards,” Reyes said at the time.