Utah governor: New social media legislation not expected to be ‘foolproof’

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) on Sunday said his state’s new restrictions on how minors can interact with social media aren’t expected to be “foolproof.”

Cox signed two bills into law last week requiring social media companies to verify the age of users in the state and prevent minors from opening accounts without parental permission. Among other measures, the new laws will also prevent advertising on minors’ accounts and cut off access for minors after 10:30 p.m.

“We don’t think it’s going to be foolproof. There’s no question about that. But we are working with social media companies, again, over the course of the year, we will be going through a rulemaking process to figure out what that’s going to look like, again, how do we protect data privacy?” Cox said on NBC News’s “Meet the Press.”

Utah’s new laws are the first of their kind in the nation, and Cox has said that he expects legal challenges to the restrictions. Among the concerns raised about the new laws are whether the age verification process would mean giving companies access to users’ personal information and whether handing control over access to parents could compromise children’s privacy, or be harmful in the case of an abusive parent.

Cox said on Sunday that there are “legitimate concerns,” such as questions about who takes charge in a custody battle, and promised “we’ll be working through those.”

“But this is about empowering families. It’s about empowering parents. And it’s about holding these social media companies accountable for what we know now,” Cox said.

“I suspect as we look at this, that there will be third-party age verification, companies that we will utilize to make this happen. We’ve seen the leaks that have happened with some of these social media companies. We don’t want them having copies of driver’s licenses on hand. That’s not what we’re trying to do here. We believe that there are technological fixes that we can work around this and that’s what we’ll be working on over the course of the next year,” Cox added. The new laws don’t take effect until March of next year.

Cox’s move comes as federal lawmakers are debating a possible nationwide ban on the video-sharing app TikTok over data security concerns.

The new laws in Utah also disallow social media companies from “using a design or feature that causes a minor to have an addiction” to the platform.

Asked on Sunday how addiction can be proven, Cox said “we don’t have to.”

“We gave a private right of action to parents and families to be able to sue these companies if there’s harm done to their child. And harm is presumed. So it will be up to the social media companies to prove otherwise,” Cox said.

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