Minors will need parental consent to use social media like Instagram or TikTok in Utah. In addition, they will not be able to use them from 10:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., according to two laws signed this Thursday by the Republican governor of the state, Spencer Cox. The conservative Utah becomes the first state in the United States to impose limits of this type that try to prevent the disorders that excessive use of the networks can cause to the youngest. Other states are working on similar proposals.
The restrictions, which will enter into force on March 1, 2024, have been approved by a state parliament with a Republican majority and are the latest example of concern about the harmful effects that social networks may have. According to Cox, there are studies that show that the time children spend using social networks causes “mental health problems.” “We remain very optimistic that we will be able to pass, not just here in the state of Utah, but across the country, legislation that will significantly change our children’s relationship with these destructive social media applications,” she said.
The new regulations will force technology companies to require users to provide their age when registering. In the case of minors, they will need parental consent. Companies are prohibited from collecting data from children under the age of 13 without parental consent under federal law. For this reason, social networks already prohibit registration on their platforms, but children can easily circumvent it, both with and without parental consent, so the challenge is to apply the new regulations. State consumer authorities have yet to establish how social networks will have to verify both age and consent.
The Consumer Protection Division must “establish acceptable forms or methods of identification, which may not be limited to a valid identification card issued by a government entity,” according to the text of the law, 16 pages, which applies to social networks that have more than five million users worldwide. Of course, it affects all the big ones like TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Twitter, SnapChat… Tech firms can use privacy threats to appeal the law.
Social networking companies would be obliged to provide parents or guardians with a password that allows them to access their children’s account and be able to see all the publications that the minor makes on the platform and all the responses and messages that they send or receive, according to the text.
The new regulation establishes that social networks must prevent by default that the accounts of minors under 18 years of age are used between 10:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. Parents or guardians, however, may modify or eliminate this limit.
A second law makes social media companies responsible for meeting those requirements and establishes fines for non-compliance. That 13-page rule also sets fines of $250,000 for each practice, design, or feature of a social network that is shown to have caused addiction, plus $2,500 for each minor exposed to it. Minors and their parents may sue companies for the damage caused by the use of social networks, according to that rule.
The Utah governor signed the laws the same day the TikTok chief testified before Congress both about the security risks posed by his company’s ties to the Chinese government and about TikTok’s effects on adolescent mental health. . Big tech is in the spotlight for that cause. Health authorities have published alarming data on a tendency to depression and suicidal thoughts among young people. Seattle Public Schools have sued the tech companies, accusing them of causing serious mental health problems among young people with addictive apps that exploit the reward system in the brain of young people to keep them coming back to the platforms again and again and generate anxiety. , depression and suicidal thoughts.
Social networks such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook have also been under fire for misinformation, hate speech and concerns about user privacy. Artificial intelligence and new tools are causing increasingly credible-looking hoaxes to spread. False images have circulated these days of Donald Trump forcibly detained by the New York police or of Vladimir Putin imprisoned.
Other red states, including Arkansas, Texas, Ohio and Louisiana, have similar proposals in the pipeline, along with Democratic New Jersey, the AP reports. California, for its part, 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 laws are the latest effort by Utah lawmakers focused on children and the information they can access online. Two years ago, Cox signed a law requiring tech companies to automatically block pornography on mobile phones and tablets sold, citing the dangers it posed to children. Concerned about its enforcement, lawmakers in this deeply religious state revised the law to prevent it from going into effect unless five other states pass similar laws.
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