Legislature approves ban on social media until age 16

Portland, OR, USA - Nov 13, 2023: Assorted social media and social networking apps are seen on an iPhone, including TikTok, Threads, Instagram, YouTube, X, Wizz, Snapchat, Facebook, and Tumblr.
The bill is headed to the Governor. But will he sign it?

The Legislature has approved a social media ban barring anyone under age 16 from opening or maintaining an account.

“This digital fentanyl is a threat to our children and most certainly a threat to our national security,” said Rep. Tyler Sirois, a Merritt Island Republican, the lead sponsor for the bill (HB 1).

The House already passed a version of the ban already, but the measure was significantly changed when the Senate took it up. The Senate ultimately passed its language on the bill earlier Thursday.

The House chose to immediately take that up the same day, and this time passed it by an even larger margin than in January, with 108 votes in favor and only 7 against.

House Speaker Paul Renner cheered the legislative accomplishment as a bipartisan one.

“There’s no Republican children or Democrat children. We owe it to all children to protect them,” the GOP leader said. “And today, members, by your vote, you did just that.”

But the legislation still could face an obstacle in the Governor’s Office. Gov. Ron DeSantis said earlier Thursday that the bill was still the subject of ongoing negotiations.

His chief concern has been whether the bill can meet legal muster if it takes the decision about social media use by children away from parents entirely.

“Parents need to have a role in this,” DeSantis said. “As much as I think it’s harmful to have people on these social media platforms for five or six hours a day, a parent can supervise a kid to use it more sparingly.”

Nevertheless, Renner signaled he plans to send this version of the bill to DeSantis.

The bill boasts bipartisan support.

“This is truly a policy discussion. This is not a partisan issue,” said Rep. Michele Rayner, a St. Petersburg Democrat who helped craft the House bill.  “This is really about protecting our children, and protecting our children doesn’t have a letter behind your name. It has values, it has morals and this is what this bill is about.”

But lawmakers championing the bill remain confident the Florida legislation will avoid legal challenges facing social media restrictions in other states.

Sen. Erin Grall, a Fort Pierce Republican who carried the bill in the upper chamber, said the legislation focused on platform features, not content, hopefully sidestepping any First Amendment issues. She also noted the Legislature doesn’t allow parents to overrule regulations on other addictive products.

“Because of how these addictive features function on these platforms, informed parental consent is simply not possible,” Grall said in an email.

“These are dynamic, sophisticated platforms that are specifically designed to manipulate content, take advantage of an individual child’s pre-disposition and create a pipeline of addicts. An example of the lack of informed parental consent is the ability to consume live streaming content — there is no way to regulate or predict what someone is going to say or do on a live stream, meaning that even the concept of ‘parental consent’ is absent on these platforms. This can and does lead to exposure of child sexual abuse material.”

The bill saw some criticism over privacy concerns, as it requires platforms to verify age using a third-party provider.

Organizations like Meta have said regulation should happen at the device level rather than on platforms.

“As we continue working with Florida lawmakers to develop solutions that empower parents and support teens, it’s crucial that HB1 provide clear, consistent rules so all services meet the expectations of parents,” said Meta spokesperson Rachel Holland.

“Teens move fluidly across online services and youth online safety bills that hold different services to different standards in different states will subject teens to inconsistent protections online.”

___

Gray Rohrer contributed to this report.

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].


2 comments

  • Dont Say FLA

    February 22, 2024 at 9:07 pm

    Rhonda says “I’m not so sure about this bill.”

    Legislature says, “We have all your financials that were kept in the dark by the exemption we granted you from the Sunshine laws.”

    And i bet then Rhonda says “Signed, sealed and delivered!”

    Recall Rhonda. Flop Gov seems to be impotent AF due to his presumable financial secrets.

    Prove me wrong, Rhonda. Please? Prove me wrong.

  • Jackson Holmes

    February 23, 2024 at 1:13 am

    I don’t trust our State Government interfering in the lives of children. .

    Jackson Rip Holmes

Comments are closed.


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