Lawmakers in Florida are taking a stand against what they say is a harmful influence on children. A new law recently approved by the Florida House of Representatives attempts to ban children under the age of 16 from using social media platforms.
What are the conditions of the bill, and does it have any chance of going into law?
A Bill to Ban Children from Social Media
Florida lawmakers said they were working to increase safety and protect the mental health of children when both Republicans and Democrats voted to pass House Bill 1 in the Florida House of Representatives.
The bill would forbid any child under the age of 16 from using social media platforms. Even if children have parental permission, they would still be banned from using social media.
The bill would also impact adults.
It would require all social media users to prove their ages and identities. All social media users would need to submit legal identification or use a facial recognition scan to open new accounts and confirm their identities for existing accounts, as reported by the Tampa Bay Times. Under the bill, social media companies would be required to use a third-party program to verify age, and all of the information they collect would need to be immediately deleted upon verification.
Any social media account that does not meet the new age confirmation standards would be shut down.
Which Social Media Sites Would Be Banned?
The bill does not clearly state what punishment social media sites might face if they fail to follow the guidelines of the new law. It also doesn’t clearly state which social media sites would be impacted.
The bill includes language that attempts to define a “social media platform.” The bill defines a social media platform as an online forum, website, or application that does all of the following:
- Allows the social media platform to track the activity of the account holder
- Allows an account holder to upload content or view the content or activity of other account holders
- Allows an account holder to interact with or track other account holders
- Utilizes 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
- Allows the utilization of information derived from the social media platform’s tracking of the activity of an account holder to control or target at least part of the content offered to the account holder
The bill attempts to differentiate social media platforms from communication apps. It says the law excludes platforms in which the “predominant or exclusive function” is emailing, direct messaging, streaming licensed media, online shopping, gaming, photo editing, and more.
Will the Law Stand?
The lack of clarity over what constitutes a social media platform is just one of the problems with the bill.
Experts say it will be difficult to determine which sites fall into the category of a social media platform because the lines of applications are blurry. For example, Snapchat is primarily a messaging tool but it is often considered a social media site.
Another problem with the law is that it may violate the First Amendment.
Bob Corn-Revere, a 40-year lawyer on First Amendment rights, made a statement that said, “I’ve never seen a blanket ban on access to constitutionally protected speech like this ever upheld by a court.” He went on to say, “The state doesn’t just get to drop a curtain and say, ‘You can’t read anything unless we say you can.’”
Other states, including Utah, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Ohio, have tried to pass similar yet less restrictive bills. Those bills say kids under 16 are still able to use social media with parental permission. Even so, those bills have also not yet been signed into law. The bills have been either blocked by federal judges or delayed by lawmakers who are trying to make sure the bills won’t be challenged in the courts, per ABC News.
So, What’s the Status of the Bill?
On January 24, 2024, the bill was passed by the Florida House of Representatives with a vote of 106 to 13, with many Democrats joining the chamber’s Republican majority. The bill must pass the Florida Senate before it would arrive on the desk of Gov. Ron DeSantis.
But the bill landing in front of DeSantis doesn’t mean it will go into law.
DeSantis has said he thinks the bill might be unconstitutional and suggested that it would need to change before it reaches his desk.
Then, even if the bill passes, it might be challenged in the courts.
Know Your Rights
The law is complex and complicated. If you have questions about whether your rights have been violated, talk to an experienced attorney right away. TJ Grimaldi is here to answer your questions, guide you through civil or criminal legal matters, and protect your rights. Schedule your consultation or call 813-226-1023 now.
TJ Grimaldi joined McIntyre in 2011. McIntyre recruited TJ to create the divisions of personal injury and family law, as well as to expand the existing criminal defense practice at the firm. During TJ’s tenure at McIntyre, he has helped oversee and grow these practice areas. He continues to practice in these divisions while also expanding his own practice areas to include estate planning and immigration law. TJ is admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of Florida and the United States District Court for the Middle and Southern Districts of Florida.