Florida senate advances bill imposing stringent social media restrictions for youths

93
Governor DeSantis

23rd February 2024 – (Florida) Florida’s Senate has passed a bill poised to become one of the most restrictive measures in the United States concerning children’s access to social media. The legislation, which aims to safeguard individuals under the age of 16 from the potentially harmful effects of these platforms, won Senate approval with a 23-14 vote on Thursday, 22nd February.

The bill, which has already garnered support in the state House, faces a final review due to amendments added by the Senate. The House speaker, a strong proponent of the legislation, is now tasked with rallying approval for these modifications in the lower chamber.

This legislative effort is driven by growing concerns over the “addictive features” of social media and their impact on young users, including exposure to sexual predators, cyberbullying, and increased risks of teen suicide. “We are confronting corporations that exploit addictive technologies to harm our children through widespread manipulation,” stated Republican Senator Erin Grall, the bill’s sponsor, during the Senate session.

Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican known for his scepticism towards such regulatory measures, has hinted at reservations, emphasizing parental rights. At a press conference on Thursday, Governor DeSantis affirmed, “A parent has the right to opt-in.”

Governor DeSantis has consistently advocated for enhanced parental control in matters affecting their children, particularly in educational contexts. His administration has enacted legislation limiting discussions of sex education and gender identity in schools and dismantling diversity initiatives in state-funded universities. The state has also witnessed the removal of numerous books from school libraries, actions driven by conservative parental and school board groups.

The proposed social media bill, however, has ignited debate over potential conflicts with the First Amendment, which protects freedom of speech. Previous attempts in other states to regulate social media access for minors, such as an Arkansas initiative requiring parental consent for account creation, have been halted by federal courts.