DAVE & DUJANOVIC

Utah’s social media child protection law put on hold

Jan 23, 2024, 8:00 AM

Gov. Spencer Cox delivers his 2024 State of the State address at the Utah Capitol in Salt Lake City...

Gov. Spencer Cox delivers his 2024 State of the State address at the Utah Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024. (Trent Nelson/Salt Lake Tribune)

(Trent Nelson/Salt Lake Tribune)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s new social media law has been put on hold. The Utah Social Media Regulation Act, designed to focus on child protection on online platforms, won’t take effect until October 1st.

It was originally scheduled to take effect on March 1, 2024.

The law aims to implement age verification requirements for all social media users, with additional restrictions on overnight usage, parental permissions, and direct messaging.

Gov. Spencer Cox signed the delay into effect on Friday, despite being a vocal advocate for the social media law.

“I’m not going to back down from a potential legal challenge when these companies are killing our kids,” he said.

Utah has taken the lead in proposing these changes to social media regulations, including age verification for all users and parental control over usage hours. The state acknowledged the complexity of the task, saying it is in uncharted territory.

Concerns about the social media law

Several tech companies have filed a lawsuit against Utah, saying that existing parental control features within social media platforms were sufficient. They say that this law imposes unnecessary restrictions and that it’s easy to bypass the current regulations.

The proposed law faces legal challenges from advocacy groups, arguing that it violates their freedom of speech.

“There’s a little bit of a legal mess right now,” said KSL legal analyst Greg Skordas. He also said that although the law has good intentions, it might be poorly implemented.

“It just has too many loose ends,” Skordas said. He explained that the governor and the current Utah legislature now have time to look over the bill to try to make changes and have the new version go into effect in October.

Skordas said that the social media companies involved are taking the matter seriously. And, that this is not an issue unique to Utah. Many other states have similar legislation, and Utah’s case could set a precedent for these other states.

The delay until October allows for social media companies and the state to negotiate further and potentially compromise.

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Utah’s social media child protection law put on hold