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Florida exempts some social media sites in the revamped bill. No one knows which ones

The Florida House passed a revamped social media ban on Wednesday, March 6, 2024. (Fresh Take Florida)<br/>
Fresh Take Florida
The Florida House passed a revamped social media ban on Wednesday.

To be clear, it’s not clear. The narrow requirements under the new legislation would appear to exclude Facebook, X, Instagram, Reddit and other popular platforms but may include Snapchat and TikTok.

The new ban on social media in Florida for young teens, something the Legislature rewrote and passed this week, is so narrowly crafted that it’s not clear which popular online platforms might be covered – if any of them.

Just days after Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed an earlier measure , lawmakers approved legislation that would block anyone under 16 from using some social media but would allow 14- and 15-year-olds to use the online services with a parent’s permission. The House passed the bill 109-4 late Wednesday, after the Senate voted 30-5 to approve it.

The new version of the proposed law – rushed through by lawmakers with only days remaining in the legislative session – covers only social media platforms with 10% or more of daily active users who are younger than 16 and who spend an average of two hours or more on the service. Both conditions must be met, or the law doesn’t apply to that provider.

Lawmakers haven’t identified which social media companies would be affected and which wouldn’t. After Friday, the leaders won’t meet again until March 2025.

The narrow requirements under the new legislation would appear to exclude Facebook, X (formerly known as Twitter), Instagram, Reddit and other popular platforms but may include Snapchat and TikTok, which are more oriented to young users, according to recent demographic figures each company has released publicly.

To be clear, it’s not clear: Not every company has released data covering how many of its users are under 16 and how many of those young users spend two hours or more online every day. The proposed law doesn’t say whether those figures must include a platform’s users only in the U.S. or globally, who would measure those figures or how they would measure them.

An excerpt from new ban on social media in Florida for young teens is seen in this screen capture on Thursday, March 7, 2024, the day after the Legislature in Tallahassee, Florida, passed it. The new legislative proposal is so narrowly crafted that it’s not clear which popular online platforms might be covered – if any of them. (Fresh Take Florida).<br/>
Fresh Take Florida
An excerpt from new legislation that would ban social media in Florida for minors is seen in this screen capture.

On TikTok, according to usage data from the company, users across all age groups spent about 95 minutes on the app daily, and young users spend an average of 87 minutes daily – below the two-hour daily threshold that Florida’s proposed law would require for users under 16.

Even the top lawyer for NetChoice, the trade association for social media companies that led the fight against the proposals, said it’s unclear which platforms would be covered – if any of them – if DeSantis signs the law. Carl Szabo, the group’s general counsel, said data on age demographics and usage are self-reported by each social media company.

Szabo said the group was hopeful DeSantis would veto even the new version of the legislation.

“Right now, we're looking at all options and really holding out hope that the governor will do the right thing, not support it for the internet and veto a clearly unconstitutional law,” he said.

Lawmakers dropped a requirement for social media companies to adopt strict age verifications that would have potentially required everyone in Florida to show an ID to prove their age online.

The new legislation separately would require social media platforms that "knowingly and intentionally" publish or distribute material harmful to minors – or platforms that contain a substantial portion of material harmful to minors – to verify each user's age. Legislative aides cited adult websites that include Xvideos and Pornhub.

Many websites with pornographic or gambling content already require users to click past a window asking them to confirm they are at least 18, but do not ask for proof.

The proposed law also doesn't describe exactly how those companies would verify a user's age.

Websites and social media services are already restricted in ways they can interact with users younger than 13 under a 1998 federal law, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. That law requires companies to notify and obtain a parent's permission before any personal information can be collected or used.

DeSantis complained that the earlier version of the legislation did not take parents’ rights into account. The proposed law doesn’t specify how social media companies – even for ones that are covered by the new rules – would verify that a parent approved a 14- or 15-year-old to be online. The legislation will formally be presented to the governor soon for his signature.

“Protecting children from the harms associated with social media is important, as is supporting parents’ rights and maintaining the eligibility of adults to engage in anonymous speech,” DeSantis told lawmakers in his veto letter.

The new provisions in the Florida law won over some Democrats who had previously voted against the bill, including Reps. Ashley Gantt, D-Miami, and Michael Gottlieb, D-Davie. Both had criticized the earlier efforts.

Gantt had proposed a similar amendment in January requiring parental permission for minors using social media – instead of a ban – when the House was considering the earlier legislation. Her amendment did not pass.

Although the vote was less divisive than before, the bill continued to spark debate on the House floor on Wednesday. Rep. Daryl Campbel, D-Fort Lauderdale, said he was worried the bill was unconstitutional. He said the state government would be impinging on the rights of parents of children younger than 13.

“I think by opening this Pandora’s box and setting this standard, we are going to start seeing a lot of things come forward where we’re starting to push back on things that are a foundation to our state, the foundation to our nation,” Campbell said. “We are taking away parents’ rights to actually be parents to their children.”

One of the Democratic bill sponsors, Rep. Michele Rayner of St. Petersburg, championed the bill because of what she described as concerns about the mental health effects of social media on young children.

“I don’t know if this is going to be the fix-all … but what I’m asking us to do is act,” Rayner said on the House floor. “I don’t know about you, but I am tired of seeing stories about children who are dying because of what’s happening on social media. If that is not enough for you to act, I don’t know what is.”

In the Senate, the new version of the legislation won over all Republican Senators who previously voted against it and a few Democratic senators, such as Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-Hollywood, and Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book, D-Davie.

Sen. Bobby Powell, D-West Palm Beach, had concerns over government overreach that he said still lingered with the new version.

“I wasn’t elected to come and run your household,” Powell said during debate. “Sometimes I think that we start passing legislation that I believe is well intentioned but it really starts to become invasive into a person’s household.”

Sen. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, who led support for the effort in the Senate, cited research that 13-year-olds found content about suicide and eating disorders on their algorithms on social media apps.

“We have to do something. We can’t stand by any longer and allow these companies to own our children,” Grall said.

House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, called the bill the “best state legislation in the country” at a press conference Wednesday. It has been a top priority of his leadership in the House. Renner said he believed the bill would survive legal challenges.

“It gives us a chance to be both effective as well as constitutional in protecting our children,” Renner said.

This story was produced by Fresh Take Florida, a news service of the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. The reporter can be reached at

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