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Florida passes sweeping bill to keep youth off social media| GuyWhoKnowsThings

The Florida Legislature passed a sweeping social media bill that would make the state the first to effectively ban young people under 16 from having accounts on platforms like TikTok and Instagram.

The measure, which Gov. Ron DeSantis said he “would be wrestling with” over the weekend and has not yet signed, could potentially upend the lives of millions of young people in Florida.

It would likely face constitutional challenges as well. Federal courts have blocked less restrictive youth social media laws enacted last year in Arkansas and Ohio. Judges in those cases said the new statutes most likely infringed on the free speech rights of social media companies to distribute information, as well as the rights of young people to access it.

New rules in Florida, approved Thursday, would require social networks to prevent people under 16 from signing up for accounts and terminate accounts that a platform knew or believed belonged to underage users. It would apply to apps and sites with certain features, likely including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube.

Last year, Utah, Arkansas, Texas and Ohio enacted laws that would require social media platforms to obtain a parent's permission before providing an account to a minor under 18 or 16.

Florida's effort would go much further and amount to an outright ban on youth on some of the most popular social media apps. It would also prohibit platforms from displaying harmful material to minors, including “patently offensive” sexual conduct.

On Friday, Mr. DeSantis said who thought social media was “clearly negative” for young people but, with parental supervision, could have beneficial effects.

“You have to strike the right balance when you're looking at these things between policies that help parents get where they want to go and policies that can completely override parents,” he said.

Civil liberties groups and tech industry trade organizations have opposed new state restrictions on social media, saying the measures could severely restrict young people's access to important information and communities, and alter the way they communicate. with friends and family.

Florida's move is the most extreme example yet of a growing national trend. Many parents, pediatricians and politicians are concerned about the potential risks to young people's mental health and safety from prolonged social media use. This has led state and federal lawmakers and regulators to increase their scrutiny and efforts to regulate social media companies.

In a politically polarized climate, the social media crackdown stands out as bipartisan.

Attorneys general from more than 40 states recently sued Meta, the owner of Instagram and Facebook, accusing the company of unfairly targeting children and teenagers and misleading the public about safety. (Meta has said that she spent a decade working to make online experiences safe and age-appropriate for teens and that the states' litigation “mischaracterizes our work using selective citations and cherry-picked documents.”)

Separately, states led by Democrats and Republicans recently passed a wave of laws that would require social media companies to mitigate risks to young people and give parents more control over their children's online activities.

Apps like Snapchat and Instagram already have policies prohibiting users under 13 years old. That's because the federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act requires certain online services to get parental permission before collecting personal information, such as full names, contact information, locations, or selfie photos. — of children under 13 years of age.

But state regulators say millions of underage children have been able to register for social media accounts simply by providing false birth dates. Proponents of Florida's law say it would fix that problem by requiring social media companies to verify the ages of all users before granting them accounts. Under the measure, companies would have to deny accounts to people who could not verify their age.

Conservative policy experts have praised Florida's move, saying it would ease the peer pressure many parents feel to give their children social media accounts, and ease parents' fears about the social isolation of children who don't. They are on social networks.

“Florida's social media bill marks a historic step in protecting children from the harms of social media,” he said. Clara Morell, a senior policy analyst at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative group in Washington, who has worked with lawmakers in several states on parental rights bills. “It provides a necessary collective solution by making social media for children under 16 not an option.”

Civil liberties groups have warned that such social media restrictions could prevent teens from doing everyday activities, such as watching news videos on apps like TikTok, Instagram and YouTube. And, they say, it could prevent young people from seeking information and communities on topics such as political organizing, reproductive health and gender identity.

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