WASHINGTON—With the introduction of HB 1 in the Florida Legislature—a measure that proposes an all-out ban on children using social media under the age of 16—Republicans continue to push the envelope by introducing a controversial "Social Media Use for Minors" measure, but in doing so, are they compromising their hawkish position of supporting parental rights at all costs?
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently weighed in on the bill, agreeing with the bill’s sponsors that as a whole, “social media has been a net negative on our youth,” but cautioned that such a measure would likely face litigation.
"I think social media has been a net negative for our youth without question," DeSantis said in a press conference last week. "I also understand that to just say that someone that's 15 just cannot have it no matter what, even if the parent consents, that that may create some legal issues."
While Florida’s congressional delegation usually refrains from injecting their opinions into state matters, some members jumped right in on the issues.
Florida Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R), who is a staunch supporter of parental rights, says he would like to see somewhat of a hybrid approach to addressing the issue, saying that because he believes “social media is having so many negative effects on your children,” that its easy for him to want to call for an outright ban.
Rep. Bilirakis says that would settle on seeing restrictions be implemented against social media sites.
Rep. Gus Bilirakis
“I think that this social media is having so many negative affects on our children, its almost like a national emergency,” said Rep. Bilirakis.
Rep. Greg Steube, who is arguably one of the most conservative members of Florida’s Republican congressional caucus, believes that issues like these “should be left to parental rights.
Another House Republican, Rep. John Rutherford told The Floridian that he believes “Parents have a fight on their hands trying to control what their children have access to on these phones, the internet.”
Rep. Rutherford believes that parents “have ultimate control of their children” and he supports parental rights, adding that parents need to keep their children “out of the strip clubs on the internet.”
“Parents have the ultimate control of their children. I believe in parental rights, and I also know that we don’t let children to into strip clubs, or that kind of thing. The strip club comes to you with this thing,” added Rutherford. “Somehow we have to keep them out of the strip clubs on the internet.”
When asked if supported a congressional measure to help address the exploitation of children on the Internet, Rep. Rutherford said that we would like to see states like Florida deal with the issue, and not the federal government.
HB 1, a bipartisan-sponsored bill, would require social media platforms to use a third-party age verification software on all current and future account holders, though it is yet to be determined what the age verification process would look like. Any social media platform in noncompliance would be fined $50,000 per violation. If a minor or minor's guardian notices and reports such a violation, the platform is liable for up to $10,000 in civil damages to be paid to the reporting party.
As is the case with many or most pieces of legislation, the current proposed social media bill could look very different, if and when it is put up to a floor vote in the Republican-led Florida legislation.