Utah Governor to Sue Social Media Companies for Knowingly Harming Children



Republican Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said on Sunday that he’s preparing to sue social media companies for causing harm to young children in the state.

In an interview with CBS’ “Face The Nation” on July 9, Mr. Cox said that “when you look at the new research that’s coming out, there’s not just a correlation between social media use and an increase in suicide, anxiety, depression, self-harm, there is a causal link there.”

“In the coming months, you will see lawsuits being filed by the state of Utah to hold them accountable,” Mr. Cox added. “We believe they’ve known about the dangers. Some of this has been leaked out—Meta and others—very clear evidence that they knew the harms that their products were causing to kids, and that they intentionally tried to hide that information. And of course to not make changes that are necessary to protect our kids, and so we’re looking forward to having our day in court on that issue.”

We’re looking at all social media businesses right now, Mr. Cox said, without giving a schedule for which companies his administration could try to suit first or for what reasons.

The possibility of suing social media corporations had already been mentioned by the Republican governor. Mr. Cox and Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes announced they were looking at a number of measures to address how young people are using social media at a press conference on January 23.

“While we hope to work cooperatively with tech companies to address these many concerns, we feel litigation is likely a necessary step to increase the urgency and seriousness of implementing child safeguards,” the Utah attorney general said in January.

New Social Media Control Rules

Utah’s Senate Bill 152, known as the Utah Social Media Regulation Act, was passed in March and imposes additional regulations on social media firms, including the requirement that users must be at least 18 years old before creating a social media profile. The law would compel social media businesses to get a parent or guardian’s permission before enabling anyone under the age of 18 to create a social media presence. The law would go into effect in March 2024.

Other protections for children were included in SB 152, including a requirement that social media firms prohibit direct messages from those who the minor has not added as friends or followed on the network. A default option that prevents children from accessing social media sites from 10:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. must also be implemented, along with features that allow a parent or guardian to change the time limitations.

“What we’re trying to do is give families more control over what is happening on social media,” he said.

Just as his administration is ready to prosecute social media corporations, the governor of Utah anticipated that social media giants would target his state with lawsuits against the new law.

“I’m sure we’ll have social media companies suing the state of Utah,” he said. “In fact, we’re going to be suing social media companies for the harm and damage that they’re causing our young people. I suspect that at some point, the Supreme Court will weigh in on this decision when it comes to restricting youth access.”

Mr. Cox has admitted that it will be challenging to enforce Utah’s new social media laws even outside of the judicial system.

“We understand that there are definitely going to be enforcement issues anytime you wade into this type of an industry,” the Utah governor said during a March 26. “It’s going to be tough. We don’t expect that we’re going to be able to prevent every, you know, every young person from getting around this. Kids are really smart. That’s one of the problems.”

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