Why Utah Gov. Cox and AG Reyes plan to sue social media companies

Governor Spencer Cox and Attorney General Sean Reyes said they have not yet taken legal action against social media apps, but plan to do so sometime in the future.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Gov. Spencer Cox answers questions from the media, during a news conference with Attorney General Sean Reyes at the Capitol, on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023. The governor and attorney general said they plan to sue social media companies sometime in the future.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, alongside Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, announced that the state would take legal actions against social media companies to address, they say, the harm that digital platforms are doing to the mental health of Utah’s youth.

“Without strong action on our part, social media companies will simply not make the changes necessary to protect our children,” Cox said in a news conference on Monday. He alleged that social media apps are designed so that users won’t want to put them down.

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Neither Cox nor Reyes would specify which social media companies would be sued or what particular claims potential litigation would address. No lawsuits have been filed at this time.

“You can expect that any lawsuits we filed together will include demands for safeguards commensurately higher given the importance of what is at stake, the well-being of our kids,” Reyes said.

Reyes said the state has been investigating social media technology companies for a “significant amount of time” and they are exploring “any and all claims.”

Addressing the use of social media among minors and its impact on mental health has been a key issue for the governor recently.

Earlier this month, the governor hosted a social media and youth mental health symposium to discuss mental health challenges among youth and has pushed for legislation on the matter.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and Attorney General Sean Reyes talk about pending lawsuits with social media companies to protect the youth, during a news conference at the Capitol, on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023.

Cox banned TikTok from state-owned devices last month, citing security concerns due to the app’s owner, ByteDance, being headquartered in China.

Utah Rep. Christ Stewart said he plans to introduce legislation in Washington banning children 16 years and younger from social media platforms, according to ABC 4. Cox stated his support for such legislation during Monday’s news conference.