Today, TechFreedom was joined by several leading First Amendment and technology scholars in a coalition letter to Utah Governor Spencer Cox, expressing concerns over the First Amendment threat posed by two bills—S.B. 152 and H.B. 311—aimed at regulating social media platforms to protect minors.
“The Utah legislature has prioritized doing something fast over doing something constitutional,” said Ari Cohn, TechFreedom’s Free Speech Counsel. “The proposed legislation would require social media platforms to age-verify all users and deny account access to anyone under the age of 18 whose parent does not consent to their having an account.”
“Because minors have substantial First Amendment rights, the government cannot ban them from social media subject only to a parental veto,” Cohn continued. “The Supreme Court has ruled that government regulation of access to social media implicates minors’ First Amendment rights. It was no less staunch a conservative than the late Justice Antonin Scalia who, writing for the high court, declared that the laws conditioning the exercise of minors’ First Amendment rights on prior parental consent would be ‘obviously’ unconstitutional.”
“An age-verification mandate would violate the First Amendment rights of adults—in Utah and across the country,” says Cohn. “The courts have repeatedly struck down laws regulating access to even material properly deemed harmful to minors because requiring age-verification would chill the exercise of First Amendment rights. This legislation would go further: it is not limited to material deemed harmful to minors, and restricts not only accessing information, but also speaking on social media. And although the proposed legislation purports to apply only to Utah residents, platforms cannot know which users are Utah residents without first verifying their identity. This legislation would be a nationwide mandate that Utah is not permitted to impose.”
“The protection of minors is an undeniably important goal, deserving thoughtful consideration and a nuanced approach,” Cohn concluded. “Unfortunately, these bills have received neither. Instead, they have been rushed through the legislative process in a matter of weeks. A more careful legislative process would have revealed their unconstitutionality.”
- Our letter on the Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act (S. 1628), (Dec. 19, 2022)
- Our most recent letter on the Open App Markets Act (S.2710), (Dec. 9, 2022)
- Our letter on the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act of 2022 (S. 673), (Dec. 6, 2022)
- Our letter on the Kids Online Safety Act (S. 3663), (Dec. 6, 2022)
- Our Supreme Court brief in NetChoice v. Moody, (Nov. 23, 2022)
- Our comments in response to the FTC’s October 2022 event entitled “Protecting Kids from Stealth Advertising in Digital Media,” (Nov. 18, 2022)
- Two Dogmas Of The Free Speech Panic, Techdirt (July 21, 2022)
- Florida and Texas’ ‘Free Speech’ Social Media Laws Would Require Sites to Host Mass Shooting Videos, The Daily Beast (May 26, 2022)
- Our Supreme Court brief in NetChoice v. Paxton, (May 18, 2022)
- TechFreedom Event: Will Kids’ Privacy Crackdown Break the Internet? The COPPA Rule, (Jan. 13, 2020)
About TechFreedom:TechFreedom is a nonprofit, nonpartisan technology policy think tank. We work to chart a path forward for policymakers towards a bright future where technology enhances freedom, and freedom enhances technology.