This week, EFF asked Utah’s Governor Cox to veto a dangerous “social media regulations” bill, S.B. 152 (McKell). Utah’s bill is part of a wave of age verification laws that would make users less secure, and make internet access less private overall. EFF opposes laws that mandate age verification requirements, and Utah’s S.B. 152 would be one of the worst we’ve seen.
S.B. 152 would require a social media company to stop a resident minor from creating an account unless they have the express consent of a parent or guardian. The law targets any site with over ten million account holders that allows a user to post their own content, and so would impact many sites that aren’t generally considered social media—for example, a site like AllTrails, which helps you find and share hiking spots, for example.
We requested that the governor veto the bill for four main reasons:
First, young people have a First Amendment right to information that S.B. 152 will infringe upon. If S.B. 152 is implemented as written, the majority of young Utahns will find themselves effectively locked out of much of the web.
Second, requiring parental access to accounts of young people will harm privacy and free speech. Access to private spaces online for research, communication, and community are vitally important for young people. S.B. 152 will make too much of that privacy impossible.
Third, S.B. 152 will endanger the privacy of all Utah users, as it requires many sites to collect and analyze private information, like government issued identification, for every user. This will lead to large platforms, many which have been regularly critiqued by Utah’s elected officials for harvesting private data, collecting even more of it.
Fourth, this law will interfere with the broader public’s First Amendment right to receive information. Requiring that all users in Utah tie their accounts to their age, and ultimately, their identity, will lead to fewer people expressing themselves, or seeking information online. In addition, there are tens of millions of U.S. residents without a form of government-issued identification. Those in Utah would likely be age-gated offline.
You can read our full letter to the governor here.