‘Utah Politics’ podcast: Free speech and social media

Utah lawmakers passed two bills dealing with online content that critics say violate the First Amendment.

(Steve Griffin | Tribune file photo) This 2017 file photo shows Utah legislators meeting in a committee hearing at the state Capitol. Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, right, as explains SB0185S during the House Judiciary Standing Committee meeting at the State Captiol in Salt Lake City Friday March 3, 2017. SB0185S deals with cause of action for minors injured by pornography.

A pair of bills passed by lawmakers during the 2021 Utah Legislature raised significant questions about the role of government in policing free speech.

The first, SB228 from Sen. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, aimed to put regulations on how social media companies moderate online content. Critics warned the bill was likely unconstitutional or would be preempted by existing federal law. Gov. Spencer Cox vetoed it earlier this week.

The second, HB72, dubbed the “porn filter” bill, requires all new cellphones and tablets sold in Utah to have adult content filters turned on by default.

We’re joined by First Amendment lawyer Ari Cohn who discusses why these bills violate free speech protections in the Constitution. He also says lawmakers, and the public, need to gain a better understanding of how the First Amendment works.

Ari Cohn on Twitter.

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