Utah moves to restrict social media access for minors without parental consent

The new rule also stipulates that social media companies cannot collect a minor's data, target minor’s social media accounts for advertising or target minor’s social media accounts with addictive designs or features

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utah officials are considering the implementation of fresh regulations aimed at requiring parental consent for minors engaging with various social media platforms.

The newly proposed rule, titled the Utah Social Media Regulation Act, was submitted by the Department of Commerce’s Division of Consumer Protection. It will go into effect on March 1, 2024, following a public comment period.

Under the new rule, all social media companies must verify the age of an adult seeking to maintain or open a social media account; acquire the consent of a parent or guardian for Utah users under the age of 18; allow parents or guardians full access to their child’s account; create a default curfew setting that blocks access to minor accounts from 10:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. which parents can adjust; protect minor accounts from unapproved direct messaging; and block accounts belonging to minors from search results.

In addition, the proposed new rule states that social media companies cannot collect a minor’s data, target minor’s social media accounts for advertising or target minor’s social media accounts with addictive designs or features.

“The health and well-being of our kids is at stake, and we take that seriously,” Gov. Spencer Cox said. “We are eager for the Social Media Regulation Act to take effect. These rules ensure that social media companies prioritize the safety and privacy of Utah’s youth while allowing them the flexibility to select methods that best meet their needs.”

According to the Division of Consumer Protection, social media companies currently possess the technology to accurately verify if the user of a given social media account is a minor.

Some of the technologies social media companies can use to verify a users age include validating and verifying mobile telephone subscriber information; estimating a current account holder’s age based on the date a Utah account holder created the account; checking a current or prospective account holder’s Social Security Number’s last four digits against a third-party database of personal information; matching a current or prospective account holder’s verified government-issued identification to a live webcam photo or video of the person or to the person who is physically present; and estimating a current or prospective account holder’s age using facial characterization or analysis.

“Low-cost technologies already exist for these companies to verify the ages of their users while also protecting their privacy. As such, this rule puts the onus on the social media companies to accurately age verify and obtain parental consent. Furthermore, the Division has the flexibility to refine the rules as technology advances,” said  Department of Commerce Executive Director Margaret Woolley Busse.

All social media companies are required to verify a user’s age within 72-hours of subscription, and also provide confirmation to a parent or guardian.

The public may submit comments on the rule and share experiences with minors on social media platforms at until Feb. 5, 2024. A public hearing regarding the new rule will be held at the Senate Building at the Capitol in room 220 on Nov. 1,, from 9 to 11 a.m.

Following the public comment period, the rule has the possibility of being adjusted before going into effect. All social media companies will have to comply with the rule. The Division of Consumer Protection may assess fines of up to $2,500 per violation if a company fails to comply.

A rule such as the Utah Social Media Regulation Act, which is proposed by a state agency, has the effect of law.

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