'This Bill Isn't About Parental Rights': Replacement Social Media Bill Passes Legislature

'This Bill Isn't About Parental Rights': Replacement Social Media Bill Passes Legislature

The new social media bill has passed the Florida Legislature, though critics worry about its legality

Liv Caputo
Liv Caputo
March 6, 2024

TALLAHASSEE, FL—The Florida Legislature has passed a revamped social media ban for minors following the Governor's veto of its old form, though critics believe that constitutionally, the bill is doomed to fail.

HB 1 was a Republican-led bill banning all children under 16 on social media platforms, regardless of parental wishes. In a surprising show of conservative infighting, the Governor vetoed the legislation, causing Lawmakers to quickly draft new language into an old bill, HB 3.

Sponsored by Republican Rep. Tyler Sirois, HB 3 hadn't been seen in Committee for weeks—until this past Monday, when the Senate amended the bill to say that children under 16 cannot be on social media, though 14- and 15-year-olds may be permitted with parental consent.

"This bill is not about content, it's not about free speech, it's about the harm that's being done to our children," Rep. Sirois said on the House Floor Wednesday. "I think that this product is a superior product in terms of protecting our kids from these harmful platforms and these features."

HB 3 also requires social media platforms to have an age verification function, allowing each platform to decide which type of verification they want to use, as long as it doesn't "knowingly and recklessly allow minors to access the platform".

If a platform does not comply with the bill, they are subject to a $50,000 fine per violation. If a minor or guardian reports misguided activity by the platform, the minor or guardian will be entitled to up to $10,000 in civil damages.

However, constitutional issues are threatening the legislation's success. Netchoice, a tech trade association encompassing some of the largest social media companies in the world, is in vehement opposition, claiming the bill is rife with "significant constitutional flaws" and "would put Florida residents’ privacy and data at risk, leaving them vulnerable to breaches and crime."

"I don't think we should spend more public dollars on lawsuits in this state where we know these bills are inherently unconstitutional," Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani said Tuesday, referencing how social media laws are toppling across the country under the pressures of legal scrutiny.

Netchoice is currently closing in on one such Florida social media law that addresses alleged censorship of conservative voices on social media platforms. The Supreme Court heard the first oral arguments in late February, with Justices hinting at the law's unconstitutionality.

Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Ralph Massullo supported the bill, citing staggering increases in mental health issues and suicides among preteens. "This bill isn't about First Amendment rights. This bill isn't about parental rights. This bill is about the primary role that any government has to keep its people safe."

Republican House Speaker Paul Renner agreed on (ironically) the platform "X". "Netchoice and Big Tech cronies will launch a lawsuit within seconds of HB 3 becoming law. Not only do we expect it, we invite it! Florida kids do not belong to you," he said, as social media restrictions have been Renner's top priority this session.

"We will not give up the fight to keep kids safe online."

The bill, which flew through the Senate Monday, passed the House in a 109-4 vote. The legislation will head to the Governor to be signed into law...again.


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Liv Caputo

Liv Caputo

Livia Caputo is a senior at Florida State University, working on a major in Criminology, and a triple minor in Psychology, Communications, and German. She has been working on a journalism career for the past year, and hopes to become a successful reporter after graduation. Her work has been cited in Fox News, the New York Post, and the Daily Mail

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