Florida Youth Deserve Better Than Gatekeeping of Social Apps

Jan 22, 2024

Dear State Representatives and Senators,

As a consumer advocacy group engaged on a wide range of digital issues including privacy and technological innovation, representing both our members and consumers, we implore you to consider another path when it comes to protecting Florida youth online, specifically HB1.

In its current form, the law would be the most draconian age-verification process for online platforms in the nation, barring all users under the age of 16 who want to use specific social media platforms regardless of parental consent or preferences for their child’s online presence. 

This process would also require select social media companies to collect sensitive personal information that we do not believe should ever be in the possession of any private entities by government mandate. This is ripe for future abuse as well as data security threats that could carry real harm to young people beginning their lives online. It will be a pandora’s box of epic proportions.

What’s more, the law makes overly broad exceptions for apps that can demonstrate a “predominate” use case for private messaging services. There are better ways to approach this, such as specifying digital services that focus exclusively on messaging. The state of Florida would be creating an uneven playing field, choosing winners and losers in the social media space, and privileging certain apps arbitrarily based on what function consumers utilize most. 

A solution that better respects parental rights, defends American innovation, and allows online consumers and their parents to choose digital apps freely would not only be more adequate, but would also allow the best private sector solutions to emerge organically. 

Parents should not have their authority and decision-making power usurped by state law or institutions, no matter how noble the cause. Rather than gatekeeping an entire generation from enjoying social connections online, we implore you to provide another solution that works for parents, young online consumers, and the American tech innovators who provide value for each and every one of us in our daily lives.

In a free country with a vibrant competitive marketplace, we will lose our global competitive edge if an entire generation is kept from the keyboard and the online global village. The Consumer Choice Center trusts parents to make the right call for their kids under 16 when it comes to social media activity. We hope you will too. 

Sincerely yours,

Yaël Ossowski

Deputy Director, Consumer Choice Center

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