Kids’ social media safety is at a crossroads in Florida.

Gov. Ron DeSantis is considering whether to sign HB 1, which—if it becomes law—would become the new national gold standard for protecting kids online.

Critics claim that the bill, which the Florida Legislature approved on Feb. 22, is inconsistent with privacy and parental rights, but their concerns don’t pass muster. The governor has until Friday to decide whether to sign it.

HB 1 would require social media platforms that use algorithmic recommendation systems or addictive design features to verify the age of account holders. Social media platforms would be prohibited from allowing children under 16 to hold an account. Section 2 would require porn sites to bar minors under 18 from accessing their platforms.

Some critics assert that the bill would harm anonymity online. But HB 1 requires platforms to provide at least one “anonymous age-verification method” to their users.

A user need not upload an ID or biometric scan to access covered websites. Instead, with existing technology, a person could easily verify his age one time through a trusted third-party “verifier” using a credit card. The verified user could then enter a special code generated by the independent “verifier” to access covered platforms without those sites knowing anything about the user’s identity.

HB 1 also goes a step further to protect user privacy by requiring that verifiers be private and independent from the affected platforms. Under the bill, independent verifiers would be required to have their primary place of business in the U.S. and could not be owned or controlled by a foreign entity.

On top of that, no verifier would be allowed to retain any personal identifying information and would need to keep all other data anonymous.

With such robust privacy safeguards, there’s hardly a legitimate trade-off between protecting kids and preserving anonymity.

Beyond privacy, critics object that preventing kids under 16 from holding social media accounts violates parental rights. But that’s also mistaken. Florida has determined that parents cannot allow their kids to engage in a whole host of risky activities, including gambling, purchasing tobacco, or performing at adult-themed venues.

DeSantis has previously suggested that parents should not be allowed to take their kids to drag performances due to the sexually explicit nature of those events. He’s right on that. Some activities are so harmful that minors should be barred from them entirely. The same logic applies to social media.

Social media is a clear and present danger to kids’ mental health and well-being.

Reports and whistleblowers reveal that social media is a breeding ground for child sexual exploitation and abuse. Platforms knowingly incorporate features and design elements that may be rewiring children’s brains. And some social media platforms, such as TikTok, are weaponized by the radical Left and the Chinese Communist Party to propagandize our kids.   

In light of social media’s devastating impact on children, the Florida Legislature is right to impose an age threshold for account holders.

Parents should be skeptical when the very companies that oppose parental consent requirements for social media turn around and say that they want to “empower parents.” If this were true, why isn’t every social media platform voluntarily implementing age verification and obtaining verifiable parental consent before giving access to users under 18?

Platforms claim to care and preach rhetoric about “empowering parents.” Groups representing parents need to recognize that for the shameless manipulation that it is.

Big Tech will continue to stonewall attempts to check its power. Thankfully, though, Florida has a proud history of standing up to corporate power when the good of the state demands it.

DeSantis has the opportunity to continue leading the fight by holding Big Tech accountable and protecting children. Florida’s kids are counting on him.

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