Gov. Spencer Cox described social media platforms’ “harmful” impact on minors at the governor’s monthly PBS news conference amid an ongoing Utah lawsuit filed against TikTok.

On Oct. 10, the state filed a lawsuit against TikTok, asserting that its business practices are harmful to teens. Future litigations will be made against other social media platforms.

Cox said, “They’re lying to you. They’re lying to you because they’re making billions of dollars. And it’s why we’re suing them, and it’s why they’re going to lose in those lawsuits because that’s the only way to get them.”

Utah legislation passed a law requiring age verification for social media accounts and the removal of addictive features in March.

During the conference, Cox explained that the law requires the state Division of Consumer Protection to lead administration of the litigation and put age verification factors in place. The law was signed into effect but is not expected to take effect until March 2024.

He continued, discussing the necessity of age requirements on social media, that there are “significant increases in anxiety and depression and self-harm that we’re seeing which are a direct result of kids who are spending much more time on social media” and are a result of consumption of “dangerous content and addictive features.”

Cox highlighted the allegedly nefarious nature of social media companies, saying, “There is no other industry in the world where we allow companies to contract with minors to harvest their data. You can’t contract with minors. And yet, for some reason, we’ve allowed this to happen.”

The discussed legislation will not take the place of parents but is focused on “giving parents the ability to monitor what is happening with their kids, to monitor what these companies are doing to our kids and the content that they’re providing.”

Cox addressed concerns on whether implementing age verification is possible. He said, “They’re doing this in many different countries right now, many of these companies already are claiming that it can’t be done here, but they’re already doing it.”

Concern for the well-being of minors on social media is not contained to Utah, and Cox said age verification “is the most bipartisan issue I’ve work on in a long, long time.”

Cox explained that when President Joe Biden visited Utah recently, “the first thing that he wanted to do was talk to me about the bills we were able to get done, because he wants these done in Congress as well.”

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He continued, “I’ve had calls from members of Congress both in the House and in the Senate, both Republicans and Democrats, who are very interested in what we’re doing and want to do something similar.”

A reporter asked for a response to the argument that age verification could potentially be a privacy violation. He said age verification is possible through third-party companies that cannot store any private information.

Cox said, “These social media companies are making billions of dollars off of killing our kids. That’s why they’re making up all of these arguments like, ‘Oh this is impossible,’ and ‘The government is trying to destroy it and they’re taking away your First Amendment rights.’”

Referencing this recent lawsuit, Cox said, “We are going to stop the destruction of our kids, because in Utah we still care about families, and we still care about our kids.”

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