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Utah lays out the rules it wants social media apps to follow

Claudia Nass

A public hearing on the rule will be held Nov. 1. Public comment closes Feb. 5.

Even after Utah’s social media law passed, there was still a question as to the exact guidelines companies had to follow. Now, the list of rules social media companies have to abide by has been approved.

The first-of-its-kind law passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Spencer Cox earlier this year stated social media companies had to verify the age of every user. If the user is a minor, parental consent is required before opening the account. It also places time restrictions on when a minor can use the service and forces social media companies to give parents access to their kid’s social media accounts.

The Utah Division of Consumer Protection drafted the rule for social media companies and was given the green light by the Utah Office of Administrative Rules, which published the rule on Sunday, Oct. 15. Once it’s in effect, the consumer protection division will also be tasked with enforcing the law and investigating violations.

“The rule outlines what is expected of social media companies with how they verify age, how they gather parental consent and handle user data,” said Melanie Hall, the communications director for the Utah Department of Commerce.

According to the new guidelines, social media companies are responsible for verifying the age and parental consent of underage users – not the state. In a statement, Margaret Woolley Busse, executive director of the Utah Department of Commerce, said “low-cost technologies already exist for these companies to verify the ages of their users while also protecting their privacy.”

Since the technology is already available, Hall said the burden is on the social media companies to pick one of the age verification services and use it “consistently and effectively.”

Now that the rule is published, Hall said social media companies have until March 1, 2024, to comply. If companies fail to follow the rules, the division can fine them up to $2,500 for each violation.

“In the state of Utah, if they have multiple minors on their platform that they haven't done this [verified the age and obtained confirmed parental consent] with, you can imagine what the fee might be,” she said.

Per state law, the division has to host a public hearing and public comment on the rule. The hearing will take place on Nov. 1, 2023, from 9-11 a.m. at the Utah State Capitol in the Senate Building, room 220. Public comment will remain open until Feb. 5, 2024.

Copyright 2023 KUER 90.1. To see more, visit KUER 90.1.

Saige Miller