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Get the latest coverage of the 2024 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

A Florida Senate committee passes an amended social media 'restriction' bill

A bill that would bar kids younger than 16 from accessing social media is undergoing a series of changes in the Florida Senate. The move follows concerns that the bill could violate the US. constitution. (AP Photo/Phil Sears)
Phil Sears/AP
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FR170567 AP
A bill that would bar kids younger than 16 from accessing social media is undergoing a series of changes in the Florida Senate. The move follows concerns that the bill could violate the US. constitution. (AP Photo/Phil Sears)

A bill that would bar kids younger than 16 from accessing social media is undergoing a series of changes in the Florida Senate.

Going into the new year, House Speaker Paul Renner told lawmakers his focus this session would be taking steps to protect Florida’s youth from the dangerous impacts of social media.

The Florida House granted him his wish with House Bill 1, which is a bipartisan effort to ban children under 16 from accessing sites like Tik Tok and Instagram.

“The rise of social media has hollowed out what should be a childhood full of happiness and big dreams," Renner said at last month's press conference.

'These things have huge legal hurdles'
Opponents pushed back on the proposal, arguing that parents are best suited to decide whether social media is a good choice for their child. They also raised concerns about how companies could go about verifying a person’s age without violating their privacy.

On Tuesday, Governor Ron DeSantis pushed back on the idea of adults being told to show personal information to access apps like Facebook or Twitter. He said that he won’t support the measure if he thinks it won’t hold up in the courts.

"These things have huge legal hurdles," said DeSantis. "I don't want to go down the road of doing something that's not going to pass muster, legally."

A photo taken over the shoulder of a person who is looking at social media on their smart phone
Anna Jones
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WFSU Public Media
A photo taken over the shoulder of a person who is looking at social media on their smart phone. (Anna Jones/WFSU)

Now, Florida Senators are working to address those concerns. A Senate committee on Fiscal Policy passed an amended version of HB1 Thursday. The revised bill suggests other alternatives for verifying a user’s age and narrowly defines what kinds of apps would be impacted.

State Senator Erin Grall (R-Fort Pierce) is carrying the bill in her chamber.

“The bill specifically addresses social media in a section, pornography, and the age verification requirements," Grall explained.

Sen. Grall said with the changes, it zeroes in on addictive features and cracks down on inappropriate material found on web sites. She also said with the revised version, state lawmakers can now be on the same page when it comes to defining what’s a ‘social media platform.’

“It’s about the features," said Grall. "It is about the way in which those features are deployed to monetize our children and make them addicts."

House Speaker Paul Renner said he supports the Senate’s changes. The amended version heads next to the Senate floor.

Adrian Andrews is a multimedia journalist with WFSU Public Media. He is a Gadsden County native and a first-generation college graduate from Florida A&M University. Adrian is also a military veteran, ending his career as a Florida Army National Guard Non-Comissioned Officer.

Adrian has experience in print writing, digital content creation, documentary, and film production. He has spent the last four years on the staff of several award-winning publications such as The Famuan, Gadsden County News Corp, and Cumulus Media before joining the WFSU news team.