Florida Advances Country’s Strictest Social Media Bill

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Florida has introduced a bill with one of the strictest laws in the country regarding social media.

The Florida House of Representatives approved legislation to prevent children under 16 years of age from using social media apps.

The law also requires social media companies, to delete all personal information related to these accounts, and to use an “independent, non-governmental third party not affiliated with social media platforms” to verify the age of users.

As written, the legislation does not mention any specific social media platform. It does state that it will be applied to any company that “uses addictive, harmful or deceptive features or any other feature designed to cause account holders to have an excess or compulsive desire to use or engage the social media platform.”

Florida’s Surgeon-General published a warning last year about the possible risks of children using social media but admitted that more research was needed. New York City Mayor Eric Adams has also issued a strong warning regarding social media.

The advisory warned that “more research is required to fully understand social media’s impact. However, current evidence shows that, while social media might have some benefits for children and teenagers, there are also ample indicators that it can have a profound harm on the mental health of children and teens.”

It continued, “At the moment, we don’t have enough evidence to know if social media sites are safe for children and teenagers.”

Politico reports that Republican legislators behind the bill have cited social media’s addictive nature as a justification for it.

Fiona McFarland, a member of the House, said that “these dopamine-producing social media sites are addictive. It’s like digital fentanyl.” Even the most tech-savvy parent or teen will find it difficult to shut the door on these addictive features.

Tyler Sirois, a co-sponsor of the bill and a member of Congress, said that this legislation draws attention to the fact that these features are addictive. They are creating a chemical reaction to keep our children hooked, to keep their behavior manipulative, and to keep the kids coming back.

Meta, the parent of Facebook and Instagram has taken a stand against the law, claiming that it’s not suitable for its intended purpose.

In a letter sent to Florida legislators, Caulder Hardvill-Childs wrote: “While we recognize the goals of House Bill 1 as it is currently drafted, this bill not only fails in its goal to empower parents to decide whether or not their teens may use social media platforms but also fails in creating robust, industry standards that will help parents and teens to manage their online activities.”

Despite their concerns, the bill passed the Florida House with a bipartisan 106-13 vote and will now head to the Republican-controlled Senate for further scrutiny.

Utah passed a similar law last year that prohibited those under the age of 18 from opening accounts on social media without parental or guardian consent.

Minors are also prohibited from accessing their accounts between 10:30 pm and 6:30 am. The state is currently being sued by industry groups for the law, claiming that it’s unconstitutional.