The US advocacy group Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, or FIRE, has filed a lawsuit against Utah’s Attorney General and the Utah Department of Commerce’s consumer protection office over new legislation restricting minors’ access to social media platforms.
The Utah Social Media Regulation Act, enacted on March 23, 2023, and effective from March 1, 2024, imposes strict regulations on social media use for minors in Utah. Key provisions include mandatory age verification and parental consent for users under 18, a nightly curfew restricting social media access between 10:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m., and requirements for social media companies to provide parents with access to their children’s accounts. The Act also imposes restrictions on direct messaging, search visibility, advertising, and the use of personal information for minors.
Proposed means of verifying social media users are still under debate, and include the use of face biometrics. For example, end users could upload a selfie image with a photo of their state-issued ID, and facial recognition could be used to validate that the latter’s date of birth information matches a given user.
FIRE is concerned that the Social Media Act’s requirement for identity verification will have a chilling effect on free speech. The organization’s chief counsel in this case, Bob Corn-Revere, told StateScoop that the IDV component is “basically a requirement that everybody show their papers at the door to be able to engage in speech on the open internet,” adding, “The state has begun a rulemaking where it explores various methods of age verification, and you can take issue with the various approaches, but either way, the general requirement is where the problem is.”
FIRE is a non-profit organization headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with a mission to defend and sustain the individual rights to free speech and free thought. Established in 1999, FIRE initially focused primarily on protecting the free speech rights of students and faculty on college campuses across the United States, but has since expanded its scope beyond academia.
Utah’s government authorities have invited public comment on the mechanism through which social media users will be required to verify their age until February 5.
January 19, 2024 – by the Mobile ID World Editorial Team