Florida Lawmakers Pass Controversial Social Media Bill

Lawmakers VOTE - Controversial Bill Passed!

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The Florida legislature approved a contentious new legislation, dubbed the Online Protections for Minors Act (H.B. 1), which prohibits social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter from catering to individuals under 16 years old. The bill introduces exceptionally strict measures, mandating platforms to identify and prohibit users falling below this age threshold.

The legislation takes aim at platforms, including websites and apps, that enable user-generated content (UGC), collect user data, and utilize what detractors label as “addictive” engagement algorithms intended to encourage repeated usage. It precisely delineates UGC as content generated and/or posted by the end user rather than the platform’s owning company.

If H.B. 1 becomes law, it would compel these platforms to promptly implement age verification protocols for all users residing in Florida. Additionally, websites must actively identify and remove any accounts held by individuals under 16, regardless of parental consent.

The Online Protections for Minors Act was approved by the legislature with a vote of 108-7 on February 22. However, it has not been formally enacted into law yet. Instead, the bill has progressed to Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL), who must determine whether to approve it, reject it, or propose changes before finalizing it.

Should it receive approval, H.B. 1 is slated to come into force in the early months of summer. The Department of Legal Affairs will be responsible for enforcing the fresh regulations and is said to have the authority to levy substantial fines, reaching as high as $50,000 per breach, against companies that resist compliance.

It’s uncertain whether DeSantis will approve the bill. Critics from various political perspectives contend that H.B. 1 constitutes governmental overreach as it encroaches upon Floridians’ First Amendment freedoms by restricting free speech. Additionally, some parents object to the absence of a provision for parental consent, which removes their autonomy to decide on a case-by-case basis.

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