Florida legislature passes bill that would keep kids under 16 from social media. Is the governor on board?

The Florida Legislature passed a bill on Thursday that would ban children under the age of 16 from accessing social media.

“The bill targets any social media site that tracks user activity, allows children to upload material and interact with others, and uses addictive features designed to cause excessive or compulsive use,” according to the Associated Press.

The bill, HB-1, specifically states that social media platforms must “use reasonable age verification methods to verify the age of each account holder” and must also pop up a disclaimer warning that, one, social media usage can be “harmful to mental health” and, two, the platform uses “design features that have addictive qualities.”

Any social media platform found to be in violation of the law would be charged with perpetrating “an unfair and deceptive trade practice” and fined up to $50,000 per violation.

The bill is supported by Florida’s police union:

“We’re talking about businesses that are using addictive features to engage in mass manipulation of our children to cause them harm,” the bill’s Senate sponsor, Erin Grall, said in its defense.

Fair enough, but many critics on both the left and right have pushed back by raising concerns about free speech and parental rights.

State Sen. Jason Pizzo, a Democrat, told the AP that he sympathizes with parents concerned about social media but believes families, not the government, need to handle this.

“This isn’t 1850. While parents show up to school board meetings to ban books, their kids are on their iPads looking at really bad stuff…Put your phone down. Have a conversation with your kids,” he said.

State Rep. Angie Nixon, also a Democrat, told Mediaite that her “mind is blown that we think children are mature enough to work on construction sites but they aren’t mature enough for social media.”

“We can’t continue to cherry pick when we will and won’t allow children to have agency and make decisions about their lives,” she added. “Today the Republican led legislature took away my choice as a mother to moderate and decide what I will allow my children to do. That’s not freedom.”

State Rep. Anna Eskamani, another Democrat, meanwhile released a statement on X saying she “cannot in good conscience vote for legislation that is likely unconstitutional.”

“Though I agree more needs to be done in protecting our youth on social media, this bill continues to go too far in taking away parents’ rights and banning social media usage — and thus First Amendment rights — for young Floridians,” she wrote.

“It wasn’t that long ago that this legislature passed a bill to prohibit tech companies from de-platforming individuals, and here we are de-platforming young people. The irony has no bounds,” she added.

As noted earlier, some Republicans also share concerns.

State Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, a Republican, told Mediaite that the bill boasts “constitutional problems” in conflict with the First Amendment and that it’s likely the bill “will get struck down by the courts.”

“If we are going to talk about parents’ rights,” he said. “Taking away parental rights seems to be the antithesis of that.”

You know who somewhat agrees? Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has also raised concerns about parental rights.

“I think, net, it’s harmful for them to be on some of those platforms that have certain functionality that is addictive. I agree with that. But I also believe that parents need to have a role in this,” he said this week, according to local station WCJB.

“I don’t think it [the bill] is there yet. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get there in a way that, I think, answers the concerns that a lot of folks have. Because I do think parents are concerned about social media and what goes on there. And I do think they think it’s a problem. But I also think that for people who are in high school, it’s not as simple. I think you’ve got to have some parent involvement,” he added.

It’s not clear yet whether DeSantis will sign the bill or send it back to the Legislature to be further modified.

Tech industry groups have, meanwhile, signaled that they intend to file suit and challenge the law in court if DeSantis does sign the bill.

Vivek Saxena

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