On January 24, 2024, in a significant move, the Florida House of Representatives approved a bill aimed at preventing children aged 16 and under from using social media platforms. The bipartisan vote, with 106 in favor and 13 opposed, cemented the measure, mandating social media platforms to deactivate accounts of individuals under 16 and establish a third-party verification system to prevent underage users, addressing privacy concerns and echoing principles similar to the 'right to be forgotten.' The bill now moves to the Florida state Senate for consideration, where Republicans hold sway over both legislative chambers.
Advocates for the bill assert that it is crucial to protect children from mental health issues like depression and anxiety, which they link to excessive social media usage. Critics argue that the legislation is too stringent, proposing alternative approaches such as enabling parents to choose whether their children can use social media.
As per the passed bill, social media firms are mandated to permanently erase personal data gathered from deactivated accounts. Moreover, parents retain the option to pursue legal action against entities failing to adhere to this stipulation. According to Reuters, the legislation doesn't explicitly name internet companies but delineates a social media platform as an online forum facilitating users to establish profiles, share or access content, and engage with others, emphasizing features deemed 'addictive, harmful, or deceptive' in design.
Significantly, the measure excludes websites and apps primarily centered on email, messaging, or texting, along with streaming services, news sources, sports and entertainment platforms, online retail, gaming, and educational websites.
Meta voiced its opposition to the legislation, arguing that it would restrict parental authority and raise concerns regarding data privacy. However, Meta expressed backing for federal legislation and introduced a new tab in online app stores to ensure parental consent for downloads by teenagers under 16.