Republican Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed two bills on Thursday that would regulate children’s use of social media, as lawmakers in Congress question TikTok over its effect on kids and national security.
Cox said that the purpose of the new regulations, which included not allowing a minor to open a social media account without parental consent, is to protect kids’ mental health.
“We’re no longer willing to let social media companies continue to harm the mental health of our youth,” he said on Twitter. “Utah’s leading the way in holding social media companies accountable – and we’re not slowing down anytime soon.”
The legislation, which is the first of its kind in the nation, is expected to be challenged in court by social media companies. The laws, House Bill 311 and Senate Bill 152, were passed by the Republican-controlled Utah legislature earlier this year.
Included in the new legislation, which goes into effect in 2024, is a ban on social media use by children from 10:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., which parents will have the liberty to adjust. Additionally, children will not show up in search results and will not be able to receive direct messages from those they are not friends with or following under the new law.
A provision in HB 311 allows children to sue for damages related to social media use. This takes aim at “addictive” features in social media, including “a $250,000 fine for social media companies which use addictive design features” and “a penalty of up to $2,500 per child exposed to an addictive feature.” For those under 16, there will be a presumption of harm unless proven otherwise, according to the Utah government.
Tech lobbyists have said the legislation would be a violation of the First Amendment and that private data could be compromised as a result of the requirements.
Other states, like Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, and New Jersey are also looking at legislation that would increase regulation of young people’s social media use.
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At the federal level, some lawmakers are also looking to reign in social media, with TikTok CEO Shou Chew appearing before Congress on Thursday as lawmakers consider a ban on the social media platform.
Democratic and Republican lawmakers have raised concerns over allegations that user data on TikTok, which is owned by Chinese technology company ByteDance, can be accessed by associates of the Chinese Communist Party.