Jan 24, 2023 - News

Utah gears up for costly legal war on social media companies

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (left) and Attorney General Sean Reyes at the state Capitol.

Gov. Spencer Cox (left) and Attorney General Sean Reyes at the state Capitol. Photo: Courtesy of the Office of the Governor

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and Attorney General Sean Reyes on Monday threatened to sue social media companies in an effort to "protect" children and teenagers.

Details: During a news conference at the state Capitol, the GOP governor said social media is negatively impacting the mental health and well-being of young people by distracting them, disrupting sleep schedules and exposing them to harmful content.

  • Reyes said the state has been investigating the platforms for a "significant amount of time."

Reality check: Cox and Reyes declined to say which social media companies they were investigating or planned to sue and did not provide a timeline for filing.

The big picture: Cox likened social media companies' awareness of their negative mental health consequences on young users to pharmaceutical companies that knew opioids were addictive and widely abused.

  • "Still, they do nothing," he said. "These dire consequences, as I've said many times, require action."

Reyes said the state is preparing to seek outside counsel.

  • "In addition to needing the manpower and the help, it also helps to have law firms with experience on a national level that have potentially sued similar companies," he said."The costs will be well worth the protection of our children."

Flashback: The move comes more than a month after Cox banned TikTok, a popular video sharing app, on state-owned devices via executive order, citing cybersecurity concerns.

What's next: Cox and Republican state lawmakers are advocating for legislation that would require age verification when setting up new social media accounts and restrict such companies from gathering data from minors.

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