Utah representative reveals strategy for defending new social media law

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A new Utah law requiring minors to have parental consent before accessing social media is being sued for the second time — this time by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression.

The law requires users to provide proof they are adults, either through a government-issued ID or biometrics.

One of the plaintiffs FIRE represents is Hannah Zoulek, a high school student concerned about what the law might do to her privacy.

“This law will require me and my mom to give sensitive personal information to major tech companies simply to access platforms that have been an integral part of my development,” Zoulek said in her FIRE press release.

Plaintiff Hannah Zoulek. Zoulek is filing a lawsuit against the Utah social media bill. (Foundations for Individual Rights and Expression)

The FIRE lawsuit came one month after NetChoice — a company representing large social media companies such as X, Facebook, YouTube and TikTok — brought its own lawsuit against the law on Dec. 18, 2023, according to NetChoice’s website.

Chris Marchese, director of NetChoice’s Litigation Center, had similar concerns over the constitutionality of the law.

“These laws go so far beyond what is constitutional,” Marchese said. “We sued because we found that this was an overburdensome way of keeping the internet a safe and usable place for minors.”

Representative Jordan D. Teuscher, the floor sponsor of the bill, gave a different point of view and revealed their strategy for handling the lawsuit.

“There is study after study that has come out showing the significant mental health problems social media has on minors,” Teuscher said.

Teuscher reaffirmed his belief repeatedly that minors need safeguards to use social media safely. He said they were prepared for lawsuits to be filed by large tech companies when they passed the bill. 

“We have always expected there to be a lawsuit … we worked hard to make sure that we felt comfortable that it would hold up to judicial scrutiny,” he said.

Teuscher said it was odd FIRE and NetChoice didn’t request any amendments to be made to the law between it being signed and going into effect.

The law, which was originally set to go through an amendment process in the current legislative session and be effective March 1, will be repealed by a new bill and pushed to October, Teuscher said.

The two current lawsuits are based on a law that won’t exist after this legislative session, he said. Neither FIRE nor NetChoice said they were aware of a new bill being crafted and neither was willing to say if they would file litigations should a new bill be proposed.

“Utah wouldn’t be the first state to make a law go away by repealing it with another,” Marchese said.

FIRE attorney and Chief Counsel Bob Corn-Revere said he didn’t know of any plans the legislature has to repeal the law, but that it would be “a good exercise in civil hygiene.”

“A blunderbuss assault on everyone’s first amendment rights … They should have looked closer at the Constitution before adopting this law,” he said. 

When asked if Representative Teuscher or his cosponsor in the Utah Senate had reached out to him about proposing amendments to the law, Corn-Revere said he couldn’t comment.

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