Florida Senate passes revised social media bill

by | Mar 4, 2024

The Florida Senate passed a revised bill to regulate minors’ access to social media, mandating parental consent for users under 16 and targeting “addictive” features, with the legislation now moving to the House for consideration.

The Florida Senate passed a revised bill on Monday aimed at regulating minors’ access to social media, adjusting earlier proposals that had faced scrutiny and a veto from Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The bill, House Bill 3, was approved with a 30-5 vote and is now slated for consideration in the House. The amended legislation introduces a prohibition against social media account creation for individuals under 14 years of age, modifying the original bill’s broader ban that included all minors under 16. Additionally, the new version permits 14 and 15-year-olds to create social media accounts, contingent upon receiving parental or guardian consent.

The legislation additionally targets features deemed “addictive,” such as infinite scrolling, auto-play, and live streaming, which are believed to contribute to the negative impact on young users’ mental health and increase their exposure to online predators.

“I would say we have to do something and we can’t stand by any longer and allow them these companies to own our children with this terrible content,” said Sen. Erin Grall, who sponsored the legislation.

The bill further mandates the implementation of either standard or anonymous age verification methods by social media platforms for new account registrations in order to ensure that minors under the specified age limits cannot create accounts without appropriate consent, while also safeguarding users’ privacy.

During debate, some lawmakers contended that the legislation may infringe on parental rights and question the appropriateness of legislative involvement in dictating minors’ social media usage. Concerns also arose about the bill’s potential constitutional challenges and the practicality of its age-related stipulations.

Sen. Tina Polsky expressed reservations about the bill, questioning the selection of age restrictions.

“I think the problem is education,” she said. “It’s parental involvement. And there’s definitely other ways we could have gone about this. So I remain a no on this bill because I don’t think it is up to us to tell parents when they should allow their children to be on social media.”

Sen. Jason Pizzo, meanwhile, took issue with the potential that parents could be held legally liable for actions undertaken by their child who received parental consent to participate on a given social media platform.

“If my son sends harmful, explicit material to another minor, aren’t I responsible for that?” He asked.

Grall refuted Pizzo’s hypothetical.

“I’m not aware of a specific statute that would make you responsible for that for the harm that may happen because a child cyber bullies or threaten someone’s life or injures or harms them in any way physically? Yes. On the criminal side of that equation, I don’t know that there’s anything that speaks specifically to your responsibility as a parent,” Grall remarked.

Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign HB 3 into law, just days after he vetoed House Bill 1, citing concerns over parental rights and the bill’s effectiveness, while signaling support for a forthcoming, revised proposal.

“I have vetoed HB 1 because the Legislature is about to produce a different, superior bill,” he said on Friday. “Protecting children from harms associated with social media is important, as is supporting parents’ rights and maintaining the ability of adults to engage in anonymous speech. I anticipate the new bill will recognize these priorities and will be signed into law soon.”


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