Senate Judiciary moves ahead with social media ban for most children
After two years of failed attempts by other Senators, Erin Grall successfully carried a bill clearing payment to Robert DuBoise through the chamber. Image via Colin Hackley for Florida Politics.

Erin Grall's legislation still doesn't allow parents to opt in on platforms, despite concerns from the Governor.

Legislation barring most children in Florida from social media advanced in the Florida Senate. But it still contains no exceptions for children logging on with parental consent, something Gov. Ron DeSantis has questioned.

Sen. Erin Grall, a Fort Pierce Republican, said Big Tech’s current practices pose too great a threat against children to ignore.

“If we as a government have identified this harm, that is beyond the magnitude of really any one person to get in the middle of and control,” Grall said.

The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the legislation (SB 1788) on a 7-2 vote. As written, the bill would prohibit anyone under the age of 16 from opening or keeping a social media account. Much of the legislation goes about defining social media, not by naming specific services but by noting any practices designed to addict children to the online experience. Grall acknowledged it would likely cover platforms like Snapchat and YouTube, based on enticing user design and data collection in use today.

The House last month passed companion legislation on a 106-13 vote, with many Democrats joining with all Republicans in the lower chamber.

But one notable Republican, DeSantis, has questioned the constitutionality of the bill as it reads today.

“To just say that someone that’s 15 just cannot have it no matter what, even if the parent consents, that may create some legal issues,” DeSantis said at a Kissimmee press conference last week.

At that point, Senate legislation had not yet moved. That changed Monday, when Grall presented it to a Senate committee for the first time.

Some critics of the law at the hearing raised similar concerns to the Governor.

“Last year, you all yell from the rooftops ‘parents’ rights.’” Said Sarah Parker, executive director of Women’s Voices of Southwest Florida. “And every time I come back here, I feel like, again, my parental rights as a 31-year-old mother are being pushed aside.”

Parker suggested that most state Senators likely grew up without access to social media until adulthood. Growing up with access to early platforms like MySpace, she’s less concerned. She also feels more keenly aware of the positive community-building found online. That includes a group she joined when her child was born and kept in a neonatal unit, but also includes support groups for LGBTQ youth.

There was also discussion as to what activities get covered by the legislation as written and which online services avoid any attention. Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book, of Davie, asked why gaming services had been excluded.

“Gaming to me is even more dangerous because you don’t know who your kids are talking to live in their bedroom,” Book said.

Grall, for her part, said there’s emerging research on the dangers to children from online gaming, but the issue may warrant crafting separate legislation at a later date.

Sen. Linda Stewart, an Orlando Democrat, questioned how a law governing social media could be applied across the nation, or even how the state can ask social media platforms to verify the age of users at all.

Grall doubts it would be any challenge for tech firms, who through data harvesting likely already know the age of all users.

“I would say that they know more about us than we know, (than we) all really want to know,” Grall said.

Indeed, she said the profitability of social media relies on tracking the daily movements of users and pushing advertising at them appropriately.

Much of the legislation focused on what social media platforms do with information on minors that they already have now. The legislation prohibits the monitoring of personal data for any minors, up to age 18, and may not collect, sell or share geographic information on those users. If the bill becomes law, it requires platforms to delete existing accounts for underage users, and all the data associated with those accounts.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • Impeach Biden

    February 5, 2024 at 8:42 pm

    Any parent that defies the governor on this should be imprisoned for life!

    • JD

      February 5, 2024 at 9:48 pm

      Impeach Biden, do the world a favor and go die.

      You contribute nothing of value to society.

      Hell, you’d not even be good to feed to hogs because nobody would want to eat them afterwards.

      • Impeach Biden

        February 6, 2024 at 4:07 pm

        When Trump regains his throne, you’ll be the first in the gas chamber! We need to remove the undesirables from this country by any means.

        • JD

          February 6, 2024 at 4:13 pm

          Oh, I forgot to add, eat sh!t first.

          Trump’s going to jail to have his anus “relaxed” like Arm Pitt Shitts keeps asking for others to do.

          And nary you forget, arms aren’t the sole provenance of the far right.

  • PeterH

    February 6, 2024 at 9:40 am

    Convoluted unenforceable legislation is endemic in the twisted Republican mindset!

    Republicans are America’s worst enemy!

    Vote all Republicans out of office!

  • Daniel DeSilva

    February 6, 2024 at 10:15 am

    Just so y’all know, this isn’t “banning” kids from using social media as much as it is requiring adults to provide ID to use it.

    You sure you’re comfortable with that?

Comments are closed.


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