Florida bill that would ban minors from social media gets revised. Here's what's different

Florida is one step closer to banning children under the age of 16 from social media websites after the Florida Senate revamped the proposal on Thursday.

When the bill, HB 1, passed the House in a 106 to 13 vote on Jan. 31, opponents criticized its vagueness regarding what social media platforms the bill would apply to.

"I'm not going to get into specific companies," Republican Rep. Tyler Sirois of Merritt Island, a bill sponsor, said during questions on Jan. 30 on the House floor. "Our bill is focused on features."

Previous version: Florida House passes bill to keep minors off social media. But what social media do they mean?

The revamped bill now sheds some light on which social media platforms it targets, though sponsors say they are still focused on the platform's features rather than naming them outright.

"It is about the features," said Senate bill sponsor Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach. "It is the way the features are deployed to monetize our children and make them addicts."

Here's a look at what HB 1 does and how the revamped version differs from its first iteration.

What is HB 1?

Florida HB 1 is a bill that would ban any child under the age of 16 from creating an account on social media platforms and require those platforms to use third-party age verification methods to enforce the ban on new accounts.

Current accounts that belong to unqualified minors would be deleted, with a 90-day appeal period. The bill also allows parents to request platforms delete accounts created by unqualified minors.

What does the revised HB 1 change?

The fundamental components of HB 1 remain intact. The revised bill changes the criteria it uses to define social media platform features targeted by the bill. For instance, it now includes issues related to algorithms, "addictive features," and allowing users to view the content or activities of other users.

In its analysis of the bill, a Senate committee called "addictive designs" or "deceptive patterns" harmful user experiences that take advantage of how people habitually use websites and manipulate them into doing things they may not normally do, such as impulse purchasing, giving away personal information or spending excessive time on websites.

The committee pointed to autoplay videos and infinite scroll as "dark patterns," and referenced a 2022 study by the Federal Trade Commission that outlined ways companies are increasingly using dark patterns to manipulate consumers into buying products or forfeiting their privacy.

What does Florida consider a social media platform?

In the bill's text, social media platforms are defined as an online forum, website or application offered by an entity that does all of the following:

  • Allows the social media platform to track activity of the account holder.

  • Allows an account holder to upload content or view the content or activity of other account holders.

  • Allows an account holder to interact with or track other account holders.

  • Utilizes addictive, harmful or deceptive features, or any other feature that is designed to cause an account holder to have an excessive or compulsive need to use or engage with the social media platform.

  • Allows the utilization of information derived from the social media platform's tracking of the activity of an account holder to control or target at least part of the content offered to the account holder.

The definition of a social media platform has grown more complicated in recent years as more and more websites and apps include features synonymous with popular platforms. Meta platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Threads are quintessential social media platforms, but what about Spotify?

Since its launch in 2008, the music streaming juggernaut has slowly implemented more and more features that blur the line. Opening the Spotify app is no longer just about finding the right song for the mood. It's not a window into its own social ecosystem where users curate playlists and share them with others. It's even created a new year-end tradition with Spotify Wrapped, story-inspired media that summarizes a user's listening habits of the year with the intent to be shared.

The vagueness of the original HB 1 led lawmakers to form an exhaustive list of exceptions:

  • Email

  • Direct messaging that consists of text, photos or videos where the content of those messages is visible only to the sender and recipient.

  • Streaming services that provide only licensed media.

  • News, sports, entertainment or other content preselected by the provider — not user-generated content. This extends to any social media-like functionality tied to those services like chat, commenting and more.

  • Online shopping or e-commerce sites.

  • Interactive gaming, virtual gaming or online services that allow the creation and uploading of content for the purpose of gaming, edutainment or any associated entertainment.

  • Photo editing software that has associated photo hosting services that allow for interaction between users, such as liking or commenting.

  • Professional creative networks for showcasing and discovering artistic content.

  • Single-purpose community groups for public safety — provided that interactions between users are limited to that single purpose.

  • Business-to-business software.

  • Software or services that provide career development opportunities.

  • Teleconferencing or videoconferencing services.

  • Shared document collaboration.

  • Cloud computing services.

  • Sites that provide access to data visualization platforms, libraries or hubs.

  • Comments on digital news websites, provided that the news content is posted by the provider of the digital news website.

  • Anything related to providing or obtaining technical support for a product, service or platform.

  • Academic, scholarly or genealogical research where the platform is responsible for the majority of the content that is posted, created or shared.

  • Classified ad services that only permit the sale of goods and prohibit the solicitation of personal services.

This article originally appeared on Pensacola News Journal: Florida revises social media ban for minors bill. What's different