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Get the latest coverage of the 2024 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee.

The Florida House passes a bill to ban kids under 16 from social media

The Florida Historic Capital
Anna Jones
/
WFSU Public Media
The Florida Historic Capital

The House approved the measure with a vote of 106-13.

In an effort to protect Florida’s youth from potentially harmful sites or dangerous encounters with strangers, the Florida House has approved a bill (HB-1) Wednesday that requires social media companies to shut down accounts that belong to kids who are younger than 16.

The measure would apply to any social media site that uses features bill supporters say are “addictive.” The bill’s co-sponsor, State Representative Tyler Sirois (R-Brevard) believes social media companies should be held accountable for what kids see online.

“An algorithm is no substitute for our conscience," Sirois said during the House session. "These companies know what they are doing is wrong. They have not acted.”

While House Bill 1 does not list specific platforms, Rep. Sirois gave a few examples during Wednesday’s House session on which features the prohibition would cover. He said auto play, infinite scrolling, or any site that allows for photographs to be manipulated, will be subject to the ban.

A photo taken over the shoulder of a person who is looking at social media on their smart phone
Anna Jones
/
WFSU Public Media

Many of those features are used in popular apps like Snapchat, TikTok, and Instagram. The bill states minors must be removed from those platforms, regardless of parent approval.

“When is it going to stop?" Miami-Dade Democratic Rep. Ashley Gantt asked during a heated debate with the bill’s sponsor. “In this bill, we're saying parents have no ability at all to make the ultimate decision. We tell parents, we in this body, knows better than you for your child."

Opponents are also worried about how the social media sites will identify the age of its users. According to the bill’s analysis, each platform will be required to have a “reasonable age verification method.” The system could use personal identifying information such as a driver's license or a birth certificate.

Rep. Yvonne Hayes Hinson, a Democrat from Gainesville, worried that would raise concerns over privacy.

“I think it's a constitutionality problem," Hinson said at a recent hearing. "There should be a way for us to have a framework of ages that need to be verified and ages that don't.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is welcomed to a joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives by House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, left, and Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, right, to give his State of the State address, Tallahassee, Fla., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)
Gary McCullough/AP
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FR171182 AP
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is welcomed to a joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives by House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, left, and Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, right, to give his State of the State address, Tallahassee, Fla., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)

House Bill 1 now heads to the Senate where President Kathleen Passidomo has already voiced her support for the proposal. After the Senate met Thursday, she pushed back on suggestions from tech companies that the measure is unconstitutional.

“You know, it's interesting, whenever someone doesn't like a bill, they say it's unconstitutional," said Passidomo. "I’m not the courts, I don't have the opportunity to make that decision. I think the Speaker is committed to it. It's an important issue and again we’ll see what happens over here in the Senate.”

While there’s no companion bill for the proposal in the Senate, the chamber could make changes to the measure through the amendment process.

Adrian Andrews is a multimedia journalist with WFSU Public Media. He is a Gadsden County native and a first-generation college graduate from Florida A&M University. Adrian is also a military veteran, ending his career as a Florida Army National Guard Non-Comissioned Officer.

Adrian has experience in print writing, digital content creation, documentary, and film production. He has spent the last four years on the staff of several award-winning publications such as The Famuan, Gadsden County News Corp, and Cumulus Media before joining the WFSU news team.