Tech-backed campaign demands lawmakers fix social media ban by empowering parents

Apps for social media in smartphone
The Citizens Awareness Project said HB 1 goes too far by cutting parents out of the decision.

A new digital ad campaign takes aim at a social media ban on minors passed by the House. And it’s backed in part by Meta Platforms, the nation’s top social media company.

Advertisements started running this weekend from the Citizens Awareness Project (CAP) calling to “Fix HB 1.” A website for that campaign launched on Monday, with a call to “Empower Parents.”

(Disclaimer: The digital campaign includes advertisements on Florida Politics.)

“Parents know best — not the government,” the website reads. “Social media reforms should guarantee parental consent and give parents the tools they need to ensure healthy social media habits.”

HB 1, a priority of House Speaker Paul Renner this year, would prohibit anyone in Florida under 16 years of age from opening or maintaining a social media account. The bill as passed in the House allows no input on the issue from parents.

“There is not a parental consent to take your child into a casino,” said Rep. Tyler Sirois, a Merritt Island Republican, when he presented the bill on the House floor.

If the bill becomes law as written, it would be the first social media ban for minors in the country without an opt-in for parents.

But other states have passed laws requiring age verification for users and limits on access for minors. NetChoice sued over such a ban in Utah.

The CAP website noted Gov. Ron DeSantis has also raised questions about the bill. “I also understand that 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,” he said at a Kissimmee press conference in January.

The new campaign said the legislation goes too far.

“While Florida lawmakers may have good intentions to protect our teens, this bill is an extreme government overreach that puts the government in control of parenting,” the CAP website said. “The bill’s supporters have said this is ‘common-sense’ legislation. But there is nothing common sense about ignoring parental consent.”

Meta partially provided backing for the campaign. The tech company has three major platforms — Facebook, Instagram and Threads — that all meet the definition of social media that must be put out of the reach of children, according to the bill as written now.

Lobbyists for Meta sent a letter to lawmakers earlier this year advocating a different approach to regulating children’s interaction with social media platforms. That calls for parental consent to be required before social media software can be downloaded from app stores to devices. The letter was signed by Caulder Harvill-Childs, Meta’s Public Policy Manager for the Southeast U.S.

“At Meta, we have called for federal legislation that would require parental consent at the app store-level for teens under 16 to download an app. Such an approach would provide parents the ability to ensure their teens are not accessing adult content or apps they don’t feel comfortable with their teens using and would allow parents to oversee and approve their teen’s online activity in one place rather than requiring them to keep up with different consent mechanisms for every app their teens use,” the letter reads.

“Further, an app store solution helps preserve privacy by limiting the collection of potentially sensitive identifying information, like government IDs. Instead, this approach leverages the parental approval system for purchases that app stores already provide today — meaning there is no need for parents and teens to share a government ID or other personal information with every one of the thousands of apps out there.”

The company has advocated for the same approach at the federal level and hopes to avoid a patchwork of different legislation impacting online platforms different in various states.

Meta officials also have raised concerns the law right now carves out some platforms like Snapchat, which are used primarily for exclusive communication. Of note, the same language appears to exempt WhatsApp, a Meta product.

The Senate companion for the social media ban (SB 1788) awaits consideration by the Senate Fiscal Policy Committee.

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].


3 comments

  • JD

    February 12, 2024 at 7:39 pm

    F@cking nanny state Republicans.

    They have the gall to say Democrats are Communist? F@ck off.

  • Dont Say FLA

    February 13, 2024 at 7:30 am

    And what would be the age of adulthood for this social media ban? 18? 21? Wild guess here, 18! That way the girls too young to strip in the strip club will be old enough to get naked online where they will use devices that sound like Mrs Rhonda’s handbag sometime does when she says she must be getting a call but her phone is on silent mode and her phone is also in her face, not in her handbag.

  • Ron Forrest Ron

    February 13, 2024 at 7:43 am

    How do you empower parents over their own children?

    Make child beating great again, I suppose. Is that it? That’s what the bible says to do. Spare the rod, and all.

Comments are closed.


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