Utah’s Cox says he will sign divisive social media bill restricting minors

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) on Thursday said he’ll sign a divisive bill restricting minors from using social media without parental permission.

Cox said at a meeting with reporters that he’ll “absolutely” sign the social media bills sent to his desk this session: Utah Senate Bill 152 would require social media companies to verify that users in the state are 18 years or older in order to open an account, and Cox said he is willing to face any legal challenges to the initiative.

“I’m not gonna back down from a potential legal challenge when these companies are killing our kids,” Cox said, according to footage from PBS Utah, shaking off First Amendment concerns.

Under the bill, Utah residents under age 18 would only be able open an account with a parent or guardian’s permission. The new restrictions would take effect March 1, 2024. The governor said he would be working with social media companies and third-party verification over the next year to work out the details of how the restrictions would be implemented.

Also on the governor’s desk is Utah House Bill 311, which would, among other measures, prohibit “a social media company from using a design or feature that causes a minor to have an addiction to the company’s social media platform.”

“Will there be legal challenges? Absolutely there’s going to be legal challenges. We understand that. That has been clear from the beginning,” Cox said of the bills.

Cox said he believes existing case law on the matter was “wrongly decided, especially in light of the fact that we have new facts about the internet and about these social media platforms that were not available when those cases were decided.”

The Utah governor noted that he wishes Congress would enact the same regulations so that states “didn’t have to do this,” but he expects other states and even the federal government to move to follow the state’s lead on social media regulation.

The governor said social media poses a “clear health and safety threat” to kids and compared social media to assault weapons.

“Even the most pro-gun lobby doesn’t believe that we have to let 12 year olds buy AR-15s. And yet, the Constitution guarantees the Second Amendment right to Americans. It’s a similar — I believe it’s similar in that this is something that’s killing our kids,” Cox said.

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