Utah Age-Verification Law Under FIRE

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Lately, Republicans have been working overtime to show that the Democrats hold no monopoly on passing bad legislation in the name of helping "the children."

For example, several "red" states, including Utah, have passed laws requiring age verification to open social media accounts. The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression has challenged Utah's law.

FIRE's suit argues that the law violates the First Amendment, pointing out that it forces social media companies to restrict users' access to protected expression. Additionally, FIRE argues the law's age verification requirements amount to an unconstitutional prior restraint on free expression.

"What Utah has done, and what other states are doing, is to try to impose sort of a magic bullet solution to the whole question of youth mental health," says Robert Corn-Revere, chief counsel at FIRE. "In its rush to address what really is the latest moral panic, the state brushes aside what is a nuanced problem and chooses censorship as the presumptive solution to how it addresses these issues, ignoring the individual differences and the diverse needs of families in the state."
The response to this challenge has been for Governor Spencer Cox (R) to delay implementation of the law until October ahead of repealing and replacing the law with what sounds like an equally bad measure.

It is disturbing to consider some of the voices this law might have silenced:
Courtesy photos of Hannah Zoule, one of the plaintiffs, by Guillaume Bigot, via FIRE.
Plaintiffs Lu Ann Cooper and Jessica Christensen co-founded an organization called Hope After Polygamy that connects individuals who are members of, or who have left, polygamous communities with educational resources, often through social media. They know all too well that at-risk youth will disproportionately shoulder the law's harmful effects. The new rules hinder minors' ability to find support and connect with people outside their existing circle, a key feature of social media for vulnerable youth who lack such support at home and school.

"I was raised in an abusive polygamous family being groomed and coerced to marry my first cousin when I was only 15 years old," said Cooper. "Since escaping, I've used social media to provide resources to others in difficult or dangerous situations. This law will only hurt children in similar situations."
I am grateful that the good people of FIRE have taken up their cause.

-- CAV

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