On March 23, Axios reports, Utah governor Spencer Cox signed two bills “aimed at limiting when and where anyone younger than 18 years old can interact online, and to stop companies from luring minors to certain websites.”
The laws require social media companies to “instate a curfew for minors in the state, barring them from using their accounts from 10:30pm to 6:30am” and “to give a parent or guardian access to their child’s accounts.”
Even ignoring the blatant unconstitutionality of both laws — both vis a vis the First Amendment and the reservation of the power to regulate interstate commerce to Congress, not state legislatures — making it likely they’ll be quashed in court, I have to wonder just how Utah’s Division of Consumer Protection intends to enforce these incredibly dumb ideas.
The bills are titled “Social Media Regulation Amendments,” but if Utah has truth in advertising laws, they really should be titled “Amendments to Encourage Minors to Lie About Their Age and Learn to Use Virtual Private Networks to Hide Their Locations,” which pretty much describes the effect they’ll have if there’s any real attempt to enforce them.
Unfortunately, Congress also seems to be tip-toeing through the tulips of “social media regulation” in similar ways, from prospective app bans (if you think a successful TikTok ban would be the last such action, think again) to various measures for suppressing “disinformation” (read: Stuff politicians don’t want you to see).
And it’s not just an American thing. Globally, various regimes (including supposed “democracies” like India) increasingly arrogate to themselves the power to just shut down the Internet any time they find public communication inconvenient.
While there are workarounds for all this nonsense, and while each such episode encourages more people to learn about those workarounds, what the Internet really needs is a country of its very own.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a new country. Any existing regime with robust telecommunications capabilities — perhaps a Caribbean or Pacific island nation? — will do, if it’s willing to put enforceable “separation of Internet and state” provisions in its constitution, set a nice low tax rate, and watch the revenues roll in as existing tech giants and ambitious start-ups abandon nosier and costlier jurisdictions (and those jurisdictions’ regulations).
Users would take care of the rest.
Short of shutting down Internet access entirely — and likely finding themselves overthrown — the busybodies couldn’t do much about it.
Get this done, Big Tech.
Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter:@thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.