Florida’s Proposed Social Media Ban for Children Set for Modifications

House Speaker Paul Renner announced that lawmakers will change a bill aimed at keeping youngsters off social media, as state leaders prepare to face expected legal challenges.

The bill (HB 1) was overwhelmingly passed by the House last week, but Gov. Ron DeSantis later expressed legal reservations about its “breadth”. Parts of the computer industry have also argued that the law will violate First Amendment rights.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is slated to take up the subject on Monday, which is a priority for Renner, a Republican from Palm Coast. Opponents claim that similar social media prohibitions have been invalidated by federal judges in other states.

Florida's Proposed Social Media Ban for Children Set for Modifications

“We’re working very, very closely with the Senate, with the governor’s team, to get to a bill that will be upheld by the courts,” Renner told reporters Thursday evening.

“We are very aware of all the legal issues that may and may be raised. However, based on the feedback we’ve received, we believe our measure is in a unique position and is a superior attempt than previous state efforts (in other parts of the country). And as a result, we are certain that we will succeed when presented with a task.”

Renner went on to say, “Obviously, as we go through the process, we keep trying to shape the clay to make it nicer and prettier. And so we feel the law will be a smaller target for those who we know will try to attack it, and we can get to the heart of the matter, which is safeguarding children from addictive technology.”

Renner and other MPs claim that social media is harmful to children’s mental health and that sexual predators can use it to interact with kids. The measure would prohibit minors under the age of 16 from creating accounts.

It would also force social media platforms to terminate existing accounts that are “reasonably known” to be owned by minors under the age of 16, and it would allow parents to request that their children’s accounts be terminated.

The law would also force platforms to engage independent companies to conduct age verifications when new accounts are created, and accounts would be denied if persons did not verify their ages. The organizations would be forced to remove the data after the ages were verified.

Florida's Proposed Social Media Ban for Children Set for Modifications

On Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider a bill (SB 1788) similar to the House one. The House measure has been transmitted to the Senate and allocated to the Senate Fiscal Policy Committee. While it is unclear how the matter will be resolved procedurally, one option is that the Senate will alter the House measure and return it to the House for another vote.

Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, has stated that she supports Renner on the subject.

DeSantis, an attorney like Passidomo and Renner, highlighted his legal concerns on January 26.

“I am sympathetic, as a parent, to what is going on with our youth,” she remarked. “But I also understand that to just say that someone who is 15 just cannot have it (social media) no matter what, even if the parent consents, that may create some legal issues.”

DeSantis stated that the bill will “likely evolve” in the legislature. “We’ll see if we get a product that is going to be good, but I am concerned about the breadth of it,” he told reporters.

Meta, the parent company of platforms including Facebook and Instagram, and internet industry groups have opposed the proposal and warned of a legal struggle.

“The fact that HB 1 addresses the internet rather than books, television shows, or video games does not change the First Amendment issue,” the business organization NetChoice stated on its website last month.

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