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Utah leaders propose new rule to protect minors online

(NBC, KYMA/KECY) - Social media users in Utah may have a different experience logging in in the coming months. State leaders have a new proposed rule they say will protect minors online.

"Are you over 18 or are you under 18?" Margaret Woolley Busse, Executive Director of the Utah Department of Commerce, asked.

That's the state's big question. They said if social media companies enforce age verification, children will be safer online.

Busse says they did a lot of research to see what other countries are doing.

"Age verification technology is not that hard and it's not very costly..and has been around for a long time," Busse explained.


They laid out options they vetted including:

  • Asking for a government-issued ID.
  • Providing a telephone number.
  • Inputting the last four digits of a social security number.
  • Facial analysis.
  • Estimating someone's age based on when they made their account.

"You can't have age verification and privacy," said Sarah Kimmel, a techonology expert.

Kimmel says this new rule will impact more than minors. It will impact adults without kids.

"They're going to need to verify their age, send a government issued ID to Facebook or Instagram...They're going to be upset," Kimmel futher explained.


She says many age verification technologies are flawed.

"I've heard so many parents say that their child can unlock their iPhone with their face," Kimmel shared.

And sneaky children will find a way around the new rules.

"They're going to install a VPN, pretend their device is outside of Utah," Kimmel remarked.

Unwanted welcome

Busse says they're not trying to get information about someone's identity. They only want to see if they're 18.

"It really is about empowering parents and their relationship with their kids and not allowing tech to get in the way," Busse expressed.

She says they'll leave it up to social media companies to decide how they'll verify their users' age. Kimmel also says she predicts an unwanted outcome from this rule.

"Facebook [and] Instagram will just block Utahans' access to those platforms," Busse spoke.

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Dillon Fuhrman

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