Utah Governor Spencer Cox has signed two bills into laws that restrict the use of social media platforms by children and places additional burdens on social media companies.
The Utah Social Media Regulation Act requires platforms to verify the ages of all Utah residents. It also imposes a curfew between the hours of 10:30 pm and 6:30 am for anyone under 18 and bans all advertising for minors.
Social media platforms will also be required to grant access to parents, allowing them to view their teenager’s social media accounts.
Other regulations include a prohibition on:
- Direct messaging with certain accounts
- Showing minor’s accounts in search results
- Collecting, sharing, or using personal information from the account (with some exceptions)
- Targeting or suggesting ads, accounts, or content
The statute does not allow social media users to waive these provisions.
Fines of up to $5,000 for each violation may be assessed.
Legal challenges are expected. Early review by legal experts show the likely arguments that will be made both for and against the laws.
Arguments Against the Law
- Commerce Clause: The Commerce Clause of the US Constitution gives Congress the power to regulate commerce between states. Social media platforms are often operated by companies that operate in multiple states, and the Utah law could be challenged on the grounds that it interferes with interstate commerce.
- Due Process and Equal Protection: The Utah law could be challenged on the grounds that it violates the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution. Specifically, opponents of the law could argue that it treats minors and adults differently, and that it imposes burdens on social media companies without adequate justification.
- First Amendment: The Utah law could be challenged on the grounds that it violates the First Amendment right to free speech. While the protection of minors is a compelling government interest, opponents of the law could argue that it goes too far in restricting speech and expression.
- Privacy concerns: The legislation requires social media platforms to collect and verify personal information, which could be seen as a violation of privacy rights. Biometric data such as photos and other identifying information could be especially sensitive and raise concerns about how it is collected and stored.
Arguments for the Law
- Protection of minors: The legislation aims to protect minors from harmful content and potential online predators by restricting their access to social media platforms and preventing companies from collecting and sharing their personal information. This argument could be used to justify the need for age verification and curfews.
- Parental involvement: Allowing parents to access their children’s social media accounts could help them monitor their online activity and prevent potential harm. This argument could be used to support the provision that requires social media platforms to grant access to parents.
- Public interest: The legislation serves the public interest by promoting the safety and well-being of minors. This argument could be used to defend the statute against claims that it infringes on individual rights.