Children and teens in Utah (USA) will lose access to social media apps like TikTok without parental permission and will face other restrictions after laws designed to protect teens from these addictive apps are passed.
State Governor Spencer Cox has enacted two laws that also ban anyone under the age of 18 from using social media between the hours of 10:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m., requiring age verification for anyone who wants to use social networks and open the door to lawsuits on behalf of minors that ensure that social networks harmed them.
Taken together, these regulations seek to prevent technology companies from luring children into their apps through addictive features. Following the announcement, the companies are expected to file lawsuits before the law takes effect in March 2024.
The crusade against social media among the Republican majority in the Utah legislature is the latest example of how politicians' perceptions of tech companies are changing. Tech giants like Facebook and Google have enjoyed unfettered growth for more than a decade, but with recent concerns over user privacy, hate speech, misinformation and the harmful mental health effects of teens, lawmakers have begun trying to control these platforms.
The law in Utah has been signed the same day that the CEO of TikTok has testified before the US Congress about the effects of the platform on the mental health of adolescents, among other things.
Other Republican-run states, including Arkansas, Texas, Ohio and Louisiana, are drawing up similar proposals, as is New Jersey. While California enacted a law last year that requires technology companies to put the safety of children first, prohibiting them from profiling minors or using personal information in a way that could harm them physically or mentally.
The new Utah law also requires parents to have access to their children's accounts. They also outline rules for people who want to file lawsuits about the damage they say the platforms caused them. If implemented, in lawsuits against social media companies involving children under the age of 16, social media companies will have to prove that their products were not harmful, not the other way around.
Social media companies would have to design new features to comply with parts of the laws that prohibit promoting ads to minors and displaying them in search results. Tech companies like TikTok, Snapchat and Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, make most of their revenue from advertising targeted at their users.
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