from the utah-gets-it-wrong-again dept
On Thursday, Utah’s governor Spencer Cox officially signed into law two bills that seek to “protect the children” on the internet. He did with a signing ceremony that he chose to stream on nearly every social media platform, despite his assertions that those platforms are problematic.
Yes, yes, watch live on the platforms that your children shouldn’t use, lest they learn that their governor eagerly supports blatantly unconstitutional bills that suppress the free speech rights of children, destroy their privacy, and put them at risk… all while claiming he’s doing this to “protect them.”
The decision to sign the bills is not a surprise. We talked about the bills earlier this year, noting just how obviously unconstitutional they are, and how much damage they’d do to the internet.
The bills (SB 152 and HB 311) do a few different things, each of which is problematic in its own special way:
- Bans anyone under 18 from using social media between 10:30pm and 6:30am.
- Requires age verification for anyone using social media while simultaneously prohibiting data collection and advertising on any “minor’s” account.
- Requires social media companies to wave a magic wand and make sure no kids get “addicted” with addiction broadly defined to include having a preoccupation with a site that causes “emotional” harms.
- Requires parental consent for anyone under the age of 18 to even have a social media account.
- Requires social media accounts to give parents access to their kids accounts.
Leaving aside the fun of banning data collection while requiring age verification (which requires data collection), the bill is just pure 100% nanny state nonsense.
Children have their own 1st Amendment rights, which this bill ignores. It assumes that teenagers have a good relationship with their parents. Hell, it assumes that parents have any relationship with their kids, and makes no provisions for how to handle cases where parents are not around, have different names, are divorced, etc.
Also, the lack of data collection combined with the requirement to prevent addiction creates a uniquely ridiculous scenario in which these companies have to make sure they don’t provide features and information that might lead to “addiction,” but can’t monitor what’s happening on those accounts, because it might violate the data collection restrictions.
As far as I can tell, the bill both requires social media companies to hide dangerous or problematic content from children, and blocks their ability to do so.
Because Utah’s politicians have no clue what they’re doing.
Meanwhile, Governor Cox seems almost gleeful about just how unconstitutional his bill is. After 1st Amendment/free speech lawyer Ari Cohn laid out the many Constitutional problems with the bill, Cox responded with a Twitter fight, by saying he looked forward to seeing Cohn in court.
Perhaps Utah’s legislature should be banning itself from social media, given how badly they misunderstand basically everything about it. They could use that time to study up on the 1st Amendment, because they need to. Badly.
Anyway, in a de facto admission that these laws are half-baked at best, they don’t go into effect until March of 2024, a full year, as they seem to recognize that to avoid getting completely pantsed in court, they might need to amend them. But they are going to get pantsed in court, because I can almost guarantee there will be constitutional challenges to these bills before long.
Filed Under: 1st amendment, age verification, children, parental permission, parents, privacy, protect the children, social media, social media bans, spencer cox, utah