Gov. Cox, AG intend to sue social media companies for harms to kids

Jan 23, 2023, 11:13 AM | Updated: 11:45 am
Cox and Reyes stand at a podium...
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes at a press conference on Jan. 23, 2023, announcing the state plans to sue social media platforms in the future. (KSL TV)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Gov. Spencer Cox along with state Attorney General, Sean Reyes, plans to sue social media companies for the harm they cause to teens, though the specifics and timeline are uncertain.

“We know there is an economic incentive that is driving these companies. There is another way that we can work to change that economic incentive and that is through legal action. Today we are announcing that the state of Utah will be suing social media companies to protect our kids,” Cox said. “Without strong action on our part, social media companies will simply not make the changes necessary to protect our children.”

Cox explained social media is linked to higher depression, anxiety, and self-harm in children and teens and has been shown to especially affect girls and young women.

“You’ve heard me speak often about the harms social media is causing on our children’s mental health and well-being,” Cox said. “We know social media is negatively affecting teens, distracting them, disrupting their sleep, and exposing them to bullying, harmful rumors, behavior, unrealistic views of other people’s lives, and peer pressure.”

Cox said legal action is one way, in addition to the bills being passed in the legislative process, to protect children against the harms of social media. However, Cox and Reyes did not offer details of what the litigation would entail or how soon it would occur.

“We know that social media companies know about the consequences their platforms and algorithms are having on mental well-being and still they do nothing,” Cox said. “They’re targeting advertisements and content to our kids and have been for years without restraint. These dire consequences require action.”

“While we hope to work cooperatively with tech companies to address these many concerns, we feel litigation is likely a necessary step to increase the urgency and seriousness of implementing child safeguards,” Reyes said.

Cox mentioned several bills focused on social media and said he supports the following efforts:

  • banning cellphones within the classroom
  • verifying the required age for users
  • restricting companies from selling and collecting kids’ data
  • requiring companies to allow tighter parental controls

Cox has spoken about the harms of social media against Utah’s young people on several occasions before and most recently he banned the social media app, TikTok, from all government devices.

Gov. Cox warns of social media impact on teen mental health

“We both feel confident that there will be lawsuits filed,” Cox said.

When asked about specific social media companies Cox said, “We’re not naming names right now, but we’re putting everyone on notice.”

Reyes said they are working to file a Request For Proposal within the week and from there the public can expect a few weeks for firms to respond and that he “could be hiring outside counsel within a month or so to consult and analyze the claims and then file.”

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Gov. Cox, AG intend to sue social media companies for harms to kids