Florida House passes bill to restrict social media usage for minors

by | Jan 24, 2024

The Florida House of Representatives passed legislation on Wednesday requiring social media platforms to terminate accounts held by minors under 16 and implement age verification processes.

The Florida House of Representatives on Wednesday passed legislation aimed at restricting social media access for children under 16.

House Bill 1, was approved in a bipartisan 106 to 13 vote and spearheaded by House Speaker Paul Renner, who named the measure as part of his legislative priorities for the ongoing Session.

The legislation is part of a broader initiative to address concerns over the potential mental health impacts of social media on minors. Co-sponsored by Reps. Fiona McFarland and Rep. Tyler Sirois, the bill requires social media platforms to terminate accounts held by minors under 16 and mandates age verification processes for new users.

If platforms permit minors under 18 to create accounts, they would be required to disclose information on addictive designs, provide resources on various safety concerns like suicide prevention and bullying, and include reporting mechanisms for harassment and violence threats.

“People on both sides of the aisle are realizing we’ve made a grievous mistake by letting go on for this long,” said Renner. “The goal is to address a platform that is designed specifically to be addictive to all of us.”

According to Renner, the measures were filed in response to rising concerns about the negative mental health effects of social media on teenagers, especially high school girls, who have shown increasing rates of loneliness and depression.

Critics of the bill, however, argue that it infringes on parental rights and raises significant constitutional and privacy issues. Tech industry representatives, including Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, and NetChoice, a tech industry group, have voiced concerns about the bill’s potential violation of First Amendment rights and the practical challenges of implementing age-verification systems.

Mitigating claims of First Amendment violations, Renner argued earlier this month that the bill focuses on the addictive aspect of social media, rather than its content.

“I’m the first one to step up and say I believe in the First Amendment, as a military guy. I fought for your right to do things I don’t like,” Renner told reporters. “But what we’re aiming at is the platform. We’re not aiming at the words. We’re aiming at only those platforms that we know are highly addictive and also highly damaging.”

The chamber also passed House Bill 3 on Wednesday, introduced by Sens. Chase Tramont and Toby Oberdorf, which introduces age verification checks for websites with material deemed unsuitable for children. The mandate if adopted and signed into law, would utilize an independent third-party verification process, with immediate deletion of verification data.


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