Utah Governor Spencer Cox on Thursday signed legislation prohibiting social media companies from allowing minors under 18 to have accounts without parental permission, and banning the companies from serving ads to minors.
The Social Media Regulation Act (SB 152) also requires social media companies to verify all users' ages, and forces the companies to allow parents to access all content and interactions of their underage children's accounts.
A companion bill (HB 311) prohibits social-media companies from designing their services in a way that “causes a minor to have an addiction to the company's social media platform,” and allows teens to sue the companies.
Cox used social media to publicize the signing, tweeting that people could watch him sign the bills live on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or LinkedIn.
The legislation, slated to take effect next March, is opposed by digital rights groups and the ad industry.
The law is “one of the worst we've seen,” the advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote earlier this month.
“Young people have a First Amendment right to information that S.B. 152 will infringe upon,” the organization wrote, adding that the law “will endanger the privacy of all Utah users, as it requires many sites to collect and analyze private information, like government issued identification, for every user.”
Chris Oswald, executive vice president at the Association of National Advertisers, reiterated Thursday that the legislation “would unduly curtail the First Amendment rights of both young people to access advertising-based information and businesses to share it.”
“The law limits the ability of older teens to get important information they need, including ad-based information about colleges, trade programs, military recruitment, job opportunities, apartments, and other resources for their futures,” he stated. “A Utah teen who is old enough to work and drive a car should also be old enough to see an ad for a job or an auto dealer.”
Earlier this month the tech industry group NetChoice urged Cox to veto the bills, arguing that they violate the First Amendment.
The advocacy group TechFreedom and a group of law professors also said in a letter to Cox that the proposed laws will violate the First Amendment -- noting that the Supreme Court already ruled hat minors have First Amendment rights to access non-obscene material. In 2011, the Supreme Court voted 7-2 to strike down a California law that banned the sale of violent video games to minors, without parental consent.
Ari Cohn, a First Amendment lawyer with TechFreedom, recently got into a public disagreement on Twitter with Cox about the bills.
“The Utah legislature unsurprisingly passed these bills -- which violate the First Amendment and threaten to fragment the Internet -- and they now sit on @SpencerJCox's desk. He must now decide whether to do with is right, or what is politically expedient,” Cohn tweeted.
Cox responded by tweeting, “Can’t wait to fight this lawsuit. You are wrong and I’m excited to prove it.”