House Speaker Paul Renner lends support to social media restrictions

by | Jan 11, 2024

Florida House Speaker Paul Renner on Thursday endorsed two legislative measures aimed at limiting children’s exposure to social media, focusing on reducing the addictive nature of these platforms for minors and implementing age verification processes.

Florida House Speaker Paul Renner voiced his support for a pair of bills on Thursday that focus on limiting children’s access to social media.

House Bill 1 seeks to reduce the use of addictive social media by children under 16. For existing accounts held by minors younger than the threshold age, platforms would be required to terminate accounts and erase all associated personal information, barring legal retention requirements.

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.

House Bill 3, introduced by Sens. Chase Tramont and Toby Oberdorf, would introduce age checks for websites with material deemed unsuitable for children. The mandate if adopted, would utilize an independent third-party verification process, with immediate deletion of verification data.

“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.

“57 percent of high school girls over the last year have persistent feelings of loneliness or hopelessness. 41 percent have had mental health poor mental health in the last 30 days, and 30 percent of high school girls have contemplated suicide taking their own lives in the last year,” reported Renner during the media appearance. “You see a very direct correlation, not just in this country, but across the globe, and everywhere where social media is available.”

Mitigating claims of First Amendment violations, Renner argued that the bills focus 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 Florida House Regulatory Reform and Economic Development Subcommittee on Thursday advanced House Bill 1 by a 13-1 vote.


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