January 23, 2023
Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes and Governor Spencer J. Cox co-hosted a news conference announcing their intent to legally take action against social media companies and hold them accountable to protect youth.
The Attorney General and Governor addressed the documented negative effects social media has on children’s mental health and well-being. The correlation between social media use and anxiety, depression, lack of sleep, self-harm and destructive behavior has been studied in recent years. Social media companies have historically taken some steps to address these concerns, but the Governor said more drastic measures are needed.
“Today, we are announcing we will be suing social media companies to protect our kids,” Governor Cox said.
Attorney General Reyes, Governor Cox and legislators are committed to working with social media companies and hope proposed litigation will drive them to action.
AG Reyes released the following statement:
“Beyond the physical threats to youth that we fight every day in our office, like exploitation, grooming, and human trafficking on the internet, there are other serious dangers that affect the overall wellness of our young people. Adult content accessible to teens and pre-teens is just one example of these pitfalls.
“While there are positive aspects of social media, gaming, and online activities, there is substantial evidence that social media and internet usage can also be extremely harmful to a young person’s mental and behavioral health and development.
“Depression, eating disorders, suicide ideation, cutting, addictions, mass violence, cyberbullying, and other dangers among young people may be initiated or amplified by negative influences and traumatic experiences online through social media.
“This is something my team and I recognized early on, and my office has worked tirelessly with and against certain tech companies to enforce the protection of our children.
“In recent years my office has initiated legal action for concerns regarding privacy and business practices against a number of large tech companies. These are serious market and privacy issues. But even more important is the safety and well-being of our kids.
“More and more, my concerns have focused on the content available on platforms that may exploit children or be available to adolescents that are inappropriate for their age. Recent disclosures by Twitter’s new owners about the amount of CSAM formerly on the platform are indicative of this problem.
“Very often, parents don’t have adequate knowledge of or control over their child’s content on these platforms. While we hope to work cooperatively with tech companies to address these concerns, we feel litigation is likely a necessary step to increase the urgency and seriousness of implementing child safeguards.”
Specifics of any legal action are not being released at this time. A Request for Proposal (RFP) document will be submitted this week to prepare for hiring outside counsel to assist with any litigation that could soon occur.