The Florida House passed a bill Jan. 24 that would ban minors in the state under 16 from using various social media platforms.
The vote was a whopping and bipartisan 106-13 in favor of the bill. The controversial legislation, HB 1, is now up for the Florida Senate’s consideration. If passed by the latter, HB 1 would be law regardless of parental permission.
The Associated Press noted that the social media platforms impacted by the ban weren’t outlined by name in the House’s bill. The platforms targeted will include those tracking user activity and using addictive designs to hook minors. Another flag is if the platform allows children to upload content and interact with other online users.
Reuters detailed that online accounts of minors under 17 would be deleted. All new users must undergo a third-party verification process to vet out anyone underage. Additionally, parents would gain the right to civilly sue platforms that fail to delete the personal information of those under 16 since the law would make harboring that data illegal.
Platforms for exchanging private messages wouldn’t be banned for minors’ usage.
Supporters of the Florida bill argued that their main concern is how addictive social media can be for youth. They claimed that while the platforms profited, minors’ mental health declined. Other reasons were protecting children from online bullying and sexual predators.
“They’re taking advantage of kids growing up. That’s their business model. And why do they do it? To keep them hooked… with the dopamine hits that the platform gives our children with every autoplay, with every like, with every push notification,” argued bill sponsor Republican Rep. Tyler Sirois.
“It’s a situation where kids can’t stay off the platforms, and as a result of that, they have been trapped in an environment that harms their mental health,” Republican House Speaker Paul Renner commented after the vote.
Technology powerhouse Meta — owner and operator of Facebook, Instagram, Threads and WhatsApp — reportedly encouraged Florida lawmakers to consider the positives social media brings to minors.
In a written statement to the House Judiciary Committee, Meta representative Caulder Harvill-Childs reportedly highlighted that HB 1 could hinder minors’ development.
“Many teens today leverage the internet and apps to responsibly gather information and learn about new opportunities, including part-time jobs, higher education, civic or church gatherings, and military service,” noted Caulder Harvill-Childs. “By banning teens under 16, Florida risks putting its young people at a disadvantage versus teens elsewhere.”
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