On March 23rd, 2023, Governor Spencer Cox signed the Utah Social Media Regulation Act intended to limit the use of social media by minors.
Utah’s Social Media Regulation Act will mandate social media companies to verify the age of any Utah resident who wants to continue using these platforms, as well as any new accounts. Parental or guardian consent will be required for anyone under the age of 18 and forbid minors from using these apps between 10:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m.
Other restrictions for both Utah minors and companies must enforce include:
- Shall prohibit direct messaging with certain accounts
- May not show the minor’s account in search results
- May not display advertising
- May not collect, share, or use personal information from the account, with certain exceptions
- May not target or suggest ads, accounts, or content
- Shall limit hours of access, subject to parental or guardian direction
- Requires a social media company to provide a parent or guardian access to the content and interactions of an account held by a Utah resident under the age of 18
While the intent is to prevent minors from being exposed to harmful content, many see the bill as controversial as it walks a fine line between protection and privacy infringement.
“Social media provides a lifeline for many young people, in addition to community, education, and conversation. They use it in part because it can be private … The law, which would limit social media access and require parental consent and monitoring for minors, will incalculably harm the ability of young people to protect their privacy and deter them from exercising their rights,” says Jason Kelley, director of activism at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).
Although the Age Restriction Act can impose fines on companies and individuals who violate the new law, it cannot do so to platforms operated outside of the United States, such as TikTok. There is also the chance minors may swipe other identities to gain access.
Utah’s Age Restriction Internet bill has already banned PornHub as well as other adult websites from the state starting last Wednesday. This could set a precedent for banning other streaming services that include content not appropriate for children, such as YouTube. Platforms such as Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and many others could see this affecting how their operations run in the future depending on how this live trial run in Utah plays out.
Other states are considering passing similar laws and Governor Cox hopes that this move will convince Congress to pass nationwide limits for teens. The restrictions are scheduled to go into effect starting March 1st, 2024.