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