Florida’s battle over social media restrictions for minors

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In a bold move to limit social media use among minors, Republican Representatives Fiona McFarland and Tyler I. Sirois, alongside Democrat Representative Michele K. Rayner, began the 2024 legislative session by introducing House Bill 1, better known as Social Media Use for Minors.

HB 1 aims to prohibit social media access to minors under the age of 16 and limit the negative impact of social media on the younger generation.

HB 1 and its proposed legislation raise questions about privacy and constitutional rights, sparking contentious debate among lawmakers, parents, and educators.

Earlier this week, Democratic Representative Yvonne Hayes Hinson of Gainesville expressed her reservations during a recent bill hearing, emphasizing that age verification would require social media users to share personal identifying information like birth certificates, which could risk possible legal censure as it relates to violating the rights of privacy to minors.

According to the legislation’s sponsors, HB 1 “is necessary to keep kids safe and such a bright line to do so. The addictive design features of social media have been shown to be dangerous to children. There are no parental consent forms to allow a minor into a casino or to allow a minor to buy tobacco, nicotine, or alcohol, — likewise, there should be no parental consent for social media.”

Critics argue that collecting such personal information infringes upon individuals’ rights to privacy and could lead to potential misuse. Advocates of the bill, on the other hand, contend that it is necessary to protect minors from the potential dangers and negative influences on social media platforms.

According to lines 47 through 50 of HB 1, the bill asserts that social media platforms utilize “addictive, harmful, or deceptive design features, or any other feature that is designed to cause an account holder to have an excessive or compulsive need to use or engage with the social media platform.”

As discussion of a social media ban intensifies, the Judiciary Committee is set to meet this upcoming Monday. The meeting will discuss a rather similar bill, SB 1788, titled “Age Verification for Social Media Platform Accounts,” and introduced by  Senator Erin Grall of Fort Pierce.

As a result of SB 1788, social media platforms would be expected to implement measures such as prohibiting certain minors from creating new accounts, providing age verification methods that are reasonable and effective, terminating specific minor accounts, and providing additional termination options for minors. The bill also calls for transparency by requiring platforms to disclose specified policies and provide resources, measures, and disclaimers.

Monday’s Judiciary Committee meeting is set to begin at 2:30 p.m. in Room 110 of the Senate Building. It is expected to shed light on the various perspectives surrounding the regulation of social media for minors and the potential impacts on both privacy and online safety.