The New Florida “Social Media Ban” Bill and What it Means

By Julia Bauer
Kids sitting at desks in class using their phones

UPDATE: Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed the bill. However, the senate proposed a revised bill with more parental control over their children’s social media use, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The bill is waiting on approval from the House before heading back to Gov. DeSantis’ desk.

Whether social media is your favorite technological advancement or you believe it is to blame for everything wrong with society, the new Florida “social media ban” bill grabbed the attention of the entire country on Feb. 22.

Florida lawmakers passed a bill banning “addictive” social media platforms for children under 16 years old. The Senate approved the bill in a 23-14 vote, and the House approved it with a 108-7 vote, according to NBC News.

Now, the future of the bill depends on Gov. Ron DeSantis. But what will change if this “social media ban” bill becomes a law?

What does the bill mean?

The bill states that its purpose is to protect children online by “requiring certain social media platforms to prohibit certain minors from creating new accounts and to verify the age of account holders.”

“Certain minors”

The bill explains that “certain minors” refers to children under 16.

“Certain social media platforms”

Although the bill does not name any social media platforms, it explains that the “certain social media platforms” to be affected are those with “addictive features.”

“Addictive features” are “features associated with an account holder having an excessive or compulsive need to use or engage with the social media platform.” These include:

  • Infinite scrolling and continuous loading content
  • Push notifications relating to a user’s account (example: a notification about gaining a new follower)
  • Interactive metrics displaying how many other users have interacted with content (example: the number of likes on a post)
  • Auto-play videos
  • Live-streaming

In addition, the bill explains that at least 10% of the platform’s daily active users must be under 16 and spend at least 2 hours per day on the platform on average.

Many popular social media platforms include the “addictive features” described, such as TikTok, Instagram and Facebook.

“Verify the age of account holders”

The bill also states that the social media platforms in question must:

  • Prohibit minors under the age of 16 from creating accounts
  • Verify the age of the user at the time a new account is created. If the user fails the age verification, the platform must deny the user
  • Terminate accounts belonging to users under 16

Essentially, this bill may ban children under the age of 16 from using many popular social media platforms.

Will it get approved?

There is no doubt that social media can be harmful to children in one way or another. Continuous-scrolling platforms like TikTok are addicting and expose users to a huge variety of content. A few minutes of swiping through a TikTok “For You Page” will usually display content that is inappropriate for children.

However, should this issue be in the government’s hands, or is it a problem to be solved at home?

The bill may face a number of constitutional challenges related to free speech, information distribution and censorship. The federal courts prevented the passage of “less-restrictive youth social media laws enacted last year by Arkansas and Ohio,” according to the New York Times.

Ultimately, protecting minors online while protecting the right to free speech and expression is challenging. Although Gov. DeSantis said he thinks social media is a “a net negative” for minors, he believes it can be beneficial with parental supervision, according to the New York Times. He said it is important to help “parents get to where they want to go” instead of creating a policy that “may be outright overruling parents.”

Gov. DeSantis has until March 1 to approve the bill.

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