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March 24, 2023 12:07 PM UTC

And Now Comes The Great Firewall of Utah

  • 2 Comments
  • by: Colorado Pols
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R).

AP reports via NPR from the Beehive State, where the permanent Republican supermajority had itself another crazy idea that Gov. Spencer Cox was happy to sign into law:

Utah became the first state to enact laws limiting how children can use social media after Republican Gov. Spencer Cox signed a pair of measures Thursday that require parental consent before kids can sign up for sites like TikTok and Instagram.

The two bills Cox signed into law also prohibit kids under 18 from using social media between the hours of 10:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m., require age verification for anyone who wants to use social media in the state and seek to prevent tech companies from luring kids to their apps using addictive features.

As readers with young children already know, most social media platforms don’t allow kids under 13 to sign up due to federal law regulating marketing to young children. But if you know that, you ought to also know how easy it is for kids to lie about their age to gain access to whatever platform they want. And as for blocking kids from accessing social media during certain times of day, they can get around such restrictions faster than adults can say “VPN”–which is another term net-savvy parents should know about, because your kids already do.

The laws are the latest effort from Utah lawmakers focused on children and the information they can access online. Two years ago, Cox signed legislation that called on tech companies to automatically block porn on cell phones and tablets sold, citing the dangers it posed to children. Amid concerns about enforcement, lawmakers in the deeply religious state revised the bill to prevent it from taking effect unless five other states passed similar laws.

Notwithstanding the fact that tech giants are expected to file suit as soon as the law takes effect in 2024, the simple fact is that the state of Utah has no practical ability to enforce this law, since unlike China and other tightly-surveilled countries the state has no centralized control to block or impede network traffic within their borders. If parents choose to engage in a technological arms race against their own children to control what they can access online, they’ll enjoy somewhat better odds than the state of Utah.

Our experience is that the kids always find a way.

Comments

2 thoughts on “And Now Comes The Great Firewall of Utah

  1. " . . . unlike China and other tightly-surveilled countries the state has no centralized control to block or impede network traffic within their borders."

    They're probably working on that . . . 

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