A pair of bills in Utah would impose draconian requirements on social media platforms in the name of protecting children. Under Senate Bill 152, social media companies would be required to verify the ages of all users from Utah, get parental consent before allowing someone under age 18 to open or maintain an account, provide parents or guardians of minors with “access to the content and interactions” of accounts maintained by their children, and “limit hours of access [for minors], subject to parental or guardian direction,” per a summary of the bill. Minors would be prohibited from using social media between the hours of 10:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m.
SB 152—sponsored by state Sen. Michael K. McKell (R–Spanish Fork)—would also prohibit platforms from displaying advertising to minors or suggesting any sort of content or accounts to them, among other provisions.
Utah’s Division of Consumer Protection would be authorized to investigate allegations that a social media company was running afoul of this law, and to “seek enforcement through an injunction, civil penalties, and other relief.”
The bill would also authorize a private right to sue social media companies for violations.
Meanwhile, House Bill 311 would also require age verification. All Utah residents wishing to maintain or open social media accounts would have to show their driver’s license, birth certificate, passport, or state identification card.
Additionally, HB 311—from state Rep. Jordan D. Teuscher (R–South Jordan)—would entirely ban people under age 16 from having social media accounts and require parental consent for 16- and 17-year-olds. Enforcement would likewise be delegated to the Utah Division of Consumer Protection and to private lawsuits.
Not only would both bills violate the privacy of Utah social media users and require an insane amount of additional work for social media companies, but they would also open platforms up to all sorts of liability—including for violations of vague prohibitions that are open to interpretation.
For instance, HB 311 would prohibit social media companies from using any “practice, design, or feature” which could cause “a Utah minor account holder to become addicted to the social media platform.”
Bills like these should concern folks outside of Utah. They’re part of a trend of anti-tech legislation sweeping the states (see, for instance, in Florida and Texas), pushed by lawmakers with no regard for free markets or free speech.
Complying with any one of these state laws would be difficult for social media companies. Complying with them all would be nearly impossible, at least not without some serious changes to their business models that would burden users everywhere. And the more states start considering and passing their own rules, the more likely that tech companies are to jump on board with national regulations as a lesser evil.
Either way, it means less autonomy for social media companies and less privacy and free speech for users across the country.
In Utah, SB 152 passed out of the Senate Business and Labor Committee yesterday.
At a hearing on the bill, the Libertas Institute’s Caden Rosenbaum raised concerns about the personal information SB 152 would force companies to collect. “That kind of data in the hands of any company really is dangerous, because it’s not a matter of if it will be breached; it’s a matter of when,” said Rosenbaum.
Khara Boender, state policy director at the Computer and Communications Industry Association, suggested that decisions about social media use should be left up to families. “Every family has a different approach to how they use technology and the internet,” Boender testified, “and children and families have the ability to learn, explore interests, and maintain connections with family and friends.”
Boender was then scolded by Sen. Dan McCay (R–Riverton), according to KUTV. “You are selling a product that is addicting in nature, and you build algorithms with a primary purpose of institutionalizing that addiction,” he said.
The idea that algorithms are ruining our children and our democracy has become a favorite of tech fearmongers. For a thorough dressing-down of algorithm myths, see Reason‘s January 2023 cover story.
Vice celebrates recent positive portrayals of sex workers in popular media, including White Lotus and The Menu. These and several other recent films and TV shows “have represented sex work as ordinary work, and sex workers as complex characters, not singularly defined by the way they make money,” writes Abby Moss. In addition, these sex worker characters “are not only among the most likeable (or, in the case of The White Lotus and The Menu arguably the only likeable) characters, they are not caricatures of ‘fallen women’ or exploited men. They have genuine agency and their choices are front and centre in the narratives.”
We’re headed for a wave of pricey and pointless new stadium subsidies, suggests a paper from economists John Charles Bradbury (Kennesaw State University), Dennis Coates (University of Maryland), and Brad R. Humphreys (West Virginia University). “We identify a regular replacement cycle of venues at intervals of 30 years,” explained Bradbury in a Twitter thread. “If you look at when the last wave peaked (2000), you may notice the problem. We’re entering a new wave of stadium construction that should peak around 2030.”
Government subsidies for the construction of these new stadiums are likely to be bigger than before, since “median government subsidies of sports venues are increasing,” noted Bradbury. “The share is falling bc venues are growing more expensive. Total public outlays (the relevant metric) continue to grow. At current funding levels, replacements will result in $20 billion in new public funding by 2030.”
But the justification for these subsidies is just as empty as ever. “Recall that subsidizing stadiums is terrible public policy that goes against all evidence and policy advice,” tweets Bradbury. “Most stadium spending is reallocated local spending. We also review recent designs that supposedly overcome the dismal economics of stadiums and demonstrate that they do not improve outcomes.”
You can read the full paper here.
I’m so thrilled to be able to share my essay in The Atlantic adapted from my forthcoming book #Shielded. Give it a read!
Why Police Officers Almost Never Get Punished – The Atlantic @VikingBooks @TheAtlantic https://t.co/ZgFNeYO7vh https://t.co/vuIUf5jrNR
— Joanna Schwartz (@JCSchwartzProf) January 31, 2023
• Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican, plans to announce that she is running for president.
• “The Biden administration is evaluating the possibility of declaring a public-health emergency on abortion,” reports National Review.
• Police dogs aren’t necessary to protect police or prevent suspect resistance, according to new research. “The sudden suspension of K9 apprehension” at one large municipal policing agency “was not associated with a statistical increase in officer or suspect injury, or suspect resistance, during felony arrests,” according to the study, published in the Journal of Experimental Criminology.
• A federal prisoner in North Carolina faces an additional 40-year prison sentence for possessing buprenorphine, a drug that helps people deal with heroin withdrawal. Prosecutors allege that he intended to distribute it to other prison inmates.
• Prosecutors bungled the case against a crooked former New York City narcotics detective. Joseph Franco was charged with perjury and other crimes, leading to more than 500 convictions he was involved with being overturned. Now, a New York state judge has ruled “that prosecutors with the Manhattan district attorney’s office had failed to turn over evidence to the detective’s lawyers on three occasions, a major ethical violation, and dismissed the charges” against Franco.
• The Supreme Court’s oral arguments calendar for March and April has been released:
#SCOTUS released its oral argument calendars for March & April today! pic.twitter.com/HmaaIU2OdQ
— Zack Smith (@tzsmith) January 31, 2023
• What happens when ChatGPT hosts a dinner party? A thread:
This weekend I hosted an AI generated dinner party.
We decided to test the limits and let ChatGPT generate the theme, menu, and even the recipes.
What ensued was surprisingly delightful. pic.twitter.com/LVKQJKmvev
— Sean Linehan (@seanlinehan) January 30, 2023