Utah bill requiring cell phone manufacturers enact content filters for minors advances

Jan 31, 2024, 8:38 PM | Updated: Feb 1, 2024, 6:09 am

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah lawmaker is trying to make it illegal for cell phone manufacturers to activate phones in Utah without content filtering for minors turned on.

SB104, sponsored by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, passed unanimously out of a Senate committee Wednesday, advancing to a full Senate vote.

Weiler is trying to make cell phone manufacturers accountable, even fining them if they activate a phone in Utah without content filters for minors turned on.

The bill requires all new devices in the state to “contain a filter, determine the age of a user during activation and set up, automatically activate the filter for a minor,” as well as notify the user when the device blocks a website and allow non-minors to de-active filters with a password.

He says his bill is about protecting kids from explicit content.

“We’d like to make it easier for parents just to have it already activated. Just like if you buy a car, you don’t have to ask for the seatbelts,” he told KSL TV. “A lot of people don’t know that their Apple phone is already coming with a filter installed. But it takes like 22 steps to activate it.”

Weiler’s bill would allow parents to bring a civil claim against the cell phone manufacturers, and it would fine them $5,000 per violation if they don’t install filters.

“Quite frankly, the penalties are to get their attention because we want them to pay attention to the bill. We don’t want anybody fined. We don’t want anybody in prison. We just want them to find a way to help protect our kids from pornography,” Weiler said.

The objections to Weiler’s bill came in the form of public comment both in a prior Senate hearing and one Wednesday. Some argue that workers at cell phone stores could be penalized for selling a phone without filters on them.

Weiler’s substituted version addressed that.

The bill says workers would be liable if they “enable the password to remove the filter on a device in the possession of a minor” and the minor accesses content that is obscene.

Other objections came mostly from tech industry experts and trade groups arguing that the bill did not meet constitutional muster because it could be seen as a restriction on free speech.

Ultimately, the bill passed the committee 5-0 and moved to a full Senate vote.

How to access current filters

The following is a step-by-step guide to accessing the filters on an iPhone.

1. Go to the Settings app and tap on “Screen Time.”
2. Tap “Content & Privacy Restrictions” and enter your Screen Time passcode if prompted.
3. Turn on the toggle for “Content & Privacy Restrictions.”
4. Select “Content Restrictions” and choose the type of content you want to restrict (e.g., music, movies, etc.).
5. Select Websites and tap on Limit Adult Content. Specific websites can also be entered here.
6. Tap “Allowed Apps” and select which apps you want to allow your child to use.
7. Tap “Always Allowed” and select any features or services you want your child to be able to access at all times (e.g., AirDrop).
8. Finally, tap “Don’t Allow Changes” at the top of the screen so that no one can change these settings without entering your passcode again.

For Android or Google users, Chrome has a SafeSearch feature that prevents certain words and content. There are also parental controls in the Google Play store where you can restrict which apps are downloaded.

  1. Open your Google Chrome app.
  2. Tap the “More” icon and click “Settings” from the list of options.
  3. Choose General and tap SafeSearch among the list.

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Utah bill requiring cell phone manufacturers enact content filters for minors advances