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Governor signs first bill of legislative session delaying Utah’s social media regulations

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Governor signs first bill of legislative session delaying Utah’s social media regulations

Jan 19, 2024 | 8:33 pm ET
By Kyle Dunphey
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Utah Gov. Cox signs first bill of legislative session delaying Utah’s social media regulations
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(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Gov. Spencer Cox delivers his 2024 State of the State address at the Utah Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed the first bill of the 2024 legislative session late Friday afternoon, officially delaying implementation of the state’s tight social media restrictions that lawmakers passed last year and are now the subject of two lawsuits

In 2023, lawmakers enacted the Utah Social Media Regulation Act, which directs social media companies to obtain the consent of a parent or guardian for any prospective user under 18 years old.

By doing so, the law would require social media companies to verify the age of all Utah residents before they open an account. 

But the bill Cox signed on Friday, Social Media Modifications, or SB89, will push back the implementation of the restrictions from March 1, 2024 to Oct. 1, 2024. 

“While pushing back the effective date gives us more time to incorporate more feedback into the law, we are as committed as ever to protecting our children from the harms of social media,” Cox said in a statement Friday. 

In December, NetChoice — which represents a number of big tech companies including Meta, Google and Amazon — sued Utah, arguing its social media law violates the First and 14th Amendments by restricting minors and adults from accessing online content. 

SB89’s sponsor, Sen. Kirk Cullimore, R-Sandy, told Utah News Dispatch the bill was in response to the lawsuit, and he expected it to move fast through the legislature. It only received two “no” votes in the Senate and passed unanimously in the House. 

“It’s really just for litigation purposes,” Cullimore said last week, noting that the state has an impending deadline from the NetChoice lawsuit. 

Lawmakers are planning to overhaul the 2023 Utah Social Media Regulation Act, hoping “to avoid some of the potential constitutional problems that are raised in the lawsuit,” Cullimore said. But because the new bill isn’t ready, “we’re signaling to NetChoice and their attorneys that we’re pushing this back,” he said.

“They can’t delay litigation based on some promised bill,” Culimore said, with hopes that the court will acknowledge the delayed implementation and “put everything on pause until we actually have a law.” 

Utah is facing an additional lawsuit over the social media laws. Filed in Utah’s U.S. District Court last week, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression also claims the regulations violate the First and 14th Amendments.