POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

Bill allowing parents to sue social media companies moves closer to becoming law

Feb 26, 2024, 6:06 PM

FILE: Sen. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, and Rep. Jordan Teuscher, R-South Jordan, speak about their...

FILE: Sen. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, and Rep. Jordan Teuscher, R-South Jordan, speak about their new social media bills, SB194 and HB464, on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024. The bills aim to protect minors from the harms of social media and arm parents with tools to oversee children’s accounts. (Marielle Scott, Deseret News)

(Marielle Scott, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill in Utah targeting social media companies has just one more hurdle before heading to the desk of Gov. Spencer Cox.

The full Senate will consider HB464 Social Media Amendments, which allows parents to sue social media companies.

 This is different from previous bills passed in Utah that targeted social media.

HB464 gives parents the power to sue if their child develops mental health issues after using the apps.

The goal is to let families hold social media companies accountable.

“The companies don’t have to do anything,” said bill sponsor, Rep. Jordan Teuscher, R-South Jordan. “But they open themselves up to liability if they don’t implement these changes.”

Changes Utah lawmakers would like to see

Teuscher and other lawmakers would like to see TikTok and Instagram stop using curated algorithms to feed information to kids. That’s when social media companies track a user’s search history and then feed them similar information.

Lawmakers also want social media companies to put a halt to engagement-driven design elements, like push notifications and auto-play videos.

The legislation gives companies a way out of a lawsuit by limiting kids to three hours of use per day.

“The Surgeon General has come out to say that if a minor is on a platform for more than three hours a day, they have double the likelihood that they’re going to experience mental health issues from social media,” Teuscher said.

In January, Gov. Cox delayed implementing a social media law approved by Utah lawmakers in the 2023 Legislative session.

This move came after the state was sued by a group of tech companies alleging the law infringed upon their First Amendment right to free speech.

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Bill allowing parents to sue social media companies moves closer to becoming law