Utah Social Media Laws
The governor of Utah signed the Utah Social Media Regulation Act into law in March 2023. The Act requires social media platforms to verify users’ ages and get parental consent before minors can use their platforms. The Social Media Victims Law Center tracks new laws, such as the Utah social media laws explained here, to ensure you know about the latest measures affecting your child’s social media use.
Growing concerns about privacy, mental health, addiction, misinformation, and cyberbullying have led to increased calls for changes in the regulation of social media. In recent years, leaders of social media companies have testified before the United States Congress to address social media’s adverse effects on users. Despite the attention devoted to these issues, Congress has enacted very few federal laws to protect minors from the harm social media platforms can cause.
However, some states have started to regulate social media platforms. In March 2023, the governor of Utah signed two bills into law imposing new requirements on social media companies. The Utah social media laws apply to all minors residing in Utah who use social media. The measures aim to grant parents more control over their children’s social media use and reduce harm to minors.
The legal landscape regarding social media is always changing, so staying up-to-date on important bills and laws can be difficult. The Social Media Victims Law Center tracks social media legislation nationwide to update you about the laws that may affect you and your children.
The Utah Social Media Regulation Act
Two bills comprise the Utah Social Media Regulation Act: SB 152 and HB 311. Collectively, the two bills regulate social media companies, provide parents with ways to monitor and control their children’s social media use, and create a private right of action for parents to pursue legal remedies for minors harmed by social media use. The provisions of the Act will take effect on March 1, 2024.
The Utah Department of Commerce’s Division of Consumer Protections will create rules to enforce the Act and provide oversight, including investigating and responding to complaints about social media platforms.
Utah SB 152
Utah SB 152 requires social media companies to obtain parental consent for minors in Utah to become account holders, eliminating the need for a no-parental-consent form. Social media platforms must implement a process to verify the age of new account holders and any existing account holders as of March 1, 2024. Social media companies must block accounts that fail to complete age verification by the deadline.
SB 152 aims to let parents access their children’s accounts. Social media companies must develop ways to provide that access, allowing parents to view all posts and messages sent by and exchanged with minor children.
SB 152 also requires companies to implement time restrictions on minors’ use of social media platforms. The companies must block access to all minors in Utah from 10:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. The companies must also permit parents to control the time restrictions on the minors’ accounts and allow parents to add, remove, or modify time restrictions.
In addition, social media companies must:
- Block messaging between minors and others when the accounts are not linked as “friends”
- Block the minors’ accounts from appearing in search results unless the minor is friends with the user searching
- Not collect or use personal information beyond what is needed to verify compliance with state or federal law
- Prohibit the use of targeted or suggested products, groups, accounts, or services
SB 152 also makes the Division of Consumer Protection responsible for establishing the rules regarding age verification, parental consent, and the use and disposal of the data social media companies will obtain to complete the age verification.
Utah HB 311
Utah HB 311 prohibits social media companies from using practices that encourage social media addiction. Companies are also prohibited from using a waiver to bypass any parts of the Social Media Regulation Act. The Act also encourages social media platforms to audit for violations of the Act.
With HB 311, minors will have a private right of action against social media companies. That means a minor can sue a social media company through their parents if the platform violates the law and harms the minor. The Act permits the minor to recover attorney fees, court costs, and compensation for any harm they suffered. The law sets compensation at $2,500 per incident or the child’s total damages, whichever is greater. The Act also creates a rebuttable presumption that social media is harmful to minors under 16, shifting the burden of proving a lack of harm to social media companies.
Furthermore, HB 311 permits the Division of Consumer Protection to:
- Audit the social media companies for compliance
- Investigate complaints against social media companies
- Apply penalties of $2,500 per violation of the Act
Bring the complaint before a district court, which can issue an injunction, award damages, or provide other relief
Utah SB 74
SB 74 is another social media bill the Utah legislature is considering. The bill would task the Digital Wellness, Citizenship, and Safe Technology Commission with identifying best practices for social media use by minors and publishing resources to teach these practices to minors and parents. At this time, the Utah legislature has not passed SB 74.
Social Media’s Impact on Utah Youth
While social media lets users connect with like-minded people, social media use can also harm children and teens. The effects of social media use on minors may include the following:
- Vulnerability to cyberbullying
- Increased feelings of loneliness and sadness
- Sleep disruptions
- Low self-esteem
- A distorted view of one’s body image
- Social media addiction
- Social media violence
- Increased risks of mental health concerns, such as depression, anxiety, and the risk of suicide
- Reduced ability to navigate in-person social interactions
Recent Events Leading to Utah Legislature’s Decision to Act
In recent years, several reports have drawn attention to social media’s negative impact on young users. In 2021, Frances Haugen released internal documents from Facebook and Instagram owner Meta that included reports suggesting the company was aware of the adverse effects of social media use on teen girls.
Later in 2021, the Surgeon General of the United States issued an advisory about youth mental health. The advisory encouraged social media platforms to prioritize designing their products to promote the health and well-being of youth.
In 2023, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published the results of a survey on youth risk. The Youth Risk Behavior Survey highlighted how social media facilitates bullying, which female teens, members of underrepresented groups, and members of the LGBTQ+ community experienced at higher rates than other youths.
As states look to combat the harmful effects of social media, it is no surprise that state lawmakers are considering new laws or reviewing the application of existing laws. In some states, existing laws address a few social media harms, such as cyberbullying laws in California. Meanwhile, Social media laws in Utah and other states have created new requirements to address parental consent, age verification, and time restrictions.
Contact the Social Media Victims Law Center Today
If social media has harmed your child, the Social Media Victims Law Center may be able to help. Our attorneys specialize in holding social media companies responsible. We are dedicated to helping minors harmed by social media and their families fight for the financial compensation they deserve. Contact us today to schedule a free case consultation.
Frequently Asked Questions
For individuals and children who have been
We only handle cases on a contingent fee basis. This means that we are paid a portion of any recovery obtained in the case and you do not owe us any attorneys’ fees if the lawsuit does not result in a recovery.
Every case is unique. Our attorneys will work with your family to evaluate your potential case and help you evaluate whether filing a lawsuit or other legal proceeding is in your family’s best interest. Generally speaking, the types of cases we handle involve serious mental health effects, including attempted or completed suicide, eating disorders, inpatient mental health treatment, or sexual trafficking/exploitation that was caused by or contributed to through addictive or problematic social media use by teens and young adults.
We are a law firm based near Seattle, WA comprised of lawyers who have spent their entire careers representing victims who have been harmed by dangerous products. We are also parents. Shocked and troubled by the recent revelations about the harm caused to teens and young adults by social media platforms, which powerful technology companies have designed to be highly addictive, Social Media Victims Law Center was launched specifically to help families and children who have suffered serious mental harm or exploitation through social media use to obtain justice.
Matthew P. Bergman
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