Bob Gualtieri: HB 1 Is a major step in protecting our kids

Cyberbullying - social media harassment concept. Young asian pre
Our children’s mental health and well-being is at risk. The harm to our children is real.

For the past six years, I’ve had the privilege of serving as the Chair of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission. Throughout this time, our Commission has been dedicated to enhancing the safety of our school environment.

Year after year, we’ve tirelessly pursued solutions to safeguard our children, and I’m proud to say that our efforts have been met with supportive legislation from the state Legislature.

I am now pleased to join Stand with Parkland, which is the organization comprised of Stoneman Douglas victims’ families, in taking the next step in protecting our children from online threats by supporting the passage of House Bill 1. This bill takes an important step to support Florida’s kids, parents and communities against the consequences of addictive social media.

Social media companies know their algorithms and design features get kids addicted to their products. They don’t care and continue to use infinite scrolling, push notifications, video autoplay, and other features, knowing they are hurting kids. In addition to causing a substantial rise in depression, anxiety and suicide in kids, the algorithms are driving connections the children would have no other reason to make. In one of the many state-led lawsuits against Meta, internal documents from the social media giant revealed that the company knew that 100,000 children using Facebook and Instagram received online sexual harassment each week, but did nothing about it.

The research revealed how predators leverage Meta’s platforms to force the algorithms to produce images, identify other pedophiles and recommend potential victims.

Meta’s own internal research proved they knew about the dangers of their platform’s algorithms and addictive features. Arturo Béjar, former Director of Engineering for Protect and Care at Facebook and an Instagram consultant, testified to Congress that he tried to warn of the company’s danger, especially to young people.

The tools Facebook claimed would protect young people and prevent harassment, unwanted sexual advances, and other negative experiences were not working. He noted that his company’s research showed 13% of 13-15-year-old Instagram users received unwanted sexual advances in the last seven days.

Social media companies tell us their product is safe. However, The Wall Street Journal found that Instagram’s algorithms connected and promoted a “vast pedophile network” for a marketplace of illicit “child-sex materials.” The accounts allowed buyers to arrange meetups and “commission-specific acts.”

Social media is fertile ground for pedophiles and sex traffickers because its algorithms lure kids, keep them addicted, and can be used to connect predators with vulnerable children. The companies know it’s dangerous for kids. Their own research proves it, but they won’t act because their shareholders won’t let them give up the next generation to their competitors.

Our children’s mental health and well-being is at risk. The harm to our children is real. The damage is irreversible. The loss of life is unacceptable. HB 1 is a major step forward to addressing Florida’s compelling state interest in protecting our kids. The requirement for third-party age verification on social media sites through HB 1 will protect Florida’s children from online abusers and addictive design features.

Florida Sheriffs stand with Florida legislators who are putting the safety of our children first, parental rights front and center and standing up to online predators.

While HB 1 can’t rewrite the past, we still have time to save our future by keeping our children from being exploited by mega social media companies.


Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri is the current Chair of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission as well as the Chair of the Florida Sheriffs Association Legislative Committee.

Guest Author


  • ScienceBLVR

    February 23, 2024 at 8:42 am

    Sorry Bob, but if you think legislation will keep vulnerable kids from accessing the internet I’m afraid you are very naive about the technological skills our teens have. Do laws keep teens from accessing drugs, alcohol, guns, etc?
    Kind of like believing a “border wall” will keep out the masses.

  • Allen Greenspan

    February 23, 2024 at 8:42 am

    One of the most idiotic pieces of legislation yet! The legislature should spend more time on important issues like housing costs, insurance reform and so many others instead of meddling in parental rights!

  • Dcn Dan Rindge

    February 23, 2024 at 9:11 am

    This bill is a step in the right direction, as it treats children as children and places an obstacle for nefarious users. It used to be parents could restrict their children from certain “areas” of town or from certain “groups” of people where lewd and/or criminal behavior was rampant. The internet has opened up these dangerous areas and groups to any user, regardless of their age. To suggest absolute protection of minors is impossible so we should not pursue it is defeatist and sad.

  • Darnell Hobbs

    February 23, 2024 at 10:25 am

    Completely unenforceable without asking for the ID of every single social media user in Florida to verify their age.

    This bill is NOT about “Protecting Kids”. It’s about collecting data on every single person who uses social media and attaching a verified identity to their online activity. It’s a MASSIVE Government overreach into a Big Brother dystopia.

  • Nancy Viejo

    February 23, 2024 at 12:11 pm

    We need parental rights in this bill. But until then, at least use the parental block app on the cell phones.

Comments are closed.


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