Jan 25, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Florida House passes bill that would ban children under 16 from social media

A photo of a phone screen with social media apps on the screen including Facebook, Instagram, X, TikTok and WhatsApp. A finger is starting to click on a button.

Social media apps on a phone screen in Brussels, Belgium, in January 2024. Photo: Jonathan Raa/Getty Images

Florida's House passed a bill that would limit youth access to social media by banning new and existing accounts of users younger than 16 years old.

Why it matters: The Republican-backed bill, which hones in on social media's addictive features, would be one of the strictest social media restrictions in the country, if passed by the Senate and signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

  • It's unclear how the legislation would be enforced.
  • The bill would require social media companies to prohibit minors under 16 years old from joining the platform and delete the accounts of existing young users.
  • It also would require reasonable age verification methods.

Details: The legislation pertains to social media platforms that allow tracking users' activity and targeted content based on information derived from tracking.

  • The bill also applies to platforms that use addictive design features, allow users to upload content or view others' content and allow users to interact with or track others.
  • It excludes platforms mainly used for email, direct messaging, streaming, news, sports, non-user generated entertainment, online shopping, gaming, photo editing, professional networks and others.

Our thought bubble, from Axios' Scott Rosenberg: As many parents have discovered, it's one thing to tell teens they can't use social media apps. It's another to actually stop them.

Zoom out: Several state legislatures have considered social media restrictions, but some efforts were set back by courts last year.

  • A federal judge blocked Montana's total TikTok ban, the first of its kind.
  • An age verification law in Arkansas was blocked, also by a federal judge. It would have required anyone under 18 to have parental permission to create an account.

Context: An age verification law was passed in Utah, and state officials released proposed rules for social media companies to abide by.

  • They would have to choose to verify subscriber information via mobile telephone, the date an account was created, facial analysis, social security number or matching a user's government ID to a live webcam image.
  • Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed the first bill of the 2024 legislative session to extend the deadline for the date this law would go into effect from March to October.

Threat level: Experts have warned about social media's harmful effects on children and teens, and tech companies are increasingly being blamed for mental health issues in youth.

  • On Wednesday, New York City became the first city to issue an advisory declaring social media as an environmental toxin.

Go deeper: Tech platforms struggle to verify their users' age

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