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Utah lawmaker proposes a ratings board and parental controls for apps

Posted at 8:58 AM, Jan 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-18 10:59:09-05

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah lawmaker has introduced a resolution that calls for the establishment of a ratings board for apps on phones, tablets and other internet ready devices.

Rep. Susan Pulsipher, R-South Jordan, is proposing the resolution that notes “the most downloaded applications often include content that is not consistent with the age rating or description of such applications.”

Her House Joint Resolution 9 notes that parents deserve transparency, tech companies ought to disclose more and there is no third-party organization that holds app developers accountable to ensure age ratings are consistent.

“WHEREAS, applications contain unique risks of both exposure to content and predators, so a specific application rating system that takes these unique risk factors into account is needed; WHEREAS, social media is increasingly being used to recruit and sexually exploit young users for sexual abuse or sex trafficking; WHEREAS, social media is increasingly used for sexual harassment and sexualized bullying, including sending unsolicited sexually explicit images, repeated requests for sexually explicit imagery, sexual images that are not consensually shared, and unwanted exposure to pornographic images;” the resolution states.

It calls on tech companies and app developers to establish a ratings board “comprised of industry representatives, child development, child protection, and internet safety subject matter experts” to establish new criteria for content and in-application risks, age-appropriate ratings and impose sanctions for non-compliance. The resolution also calls for parental controls on most apps.

Many apps on Android and iPhone devices already come with age and content warnings (Twitter, for example is rated “mature” and Facebook is rated “Teen” in the Google Play store).

The resolution will be introduced in the 2020 legislative session that starts at the end of this month. Resolutions get a lot of attention with the public, as they are statements by the legislature. However, they are not legally binding.