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The “No Freedom of Speech” Social Media Bill Was Just Approved

by Oscar Pinto

The Florida Legislature recently approved a bill designed to address concerns surrounding the use of social media platforms by individuals under the age of 16. The aim is to protect young people from potential negative impacts associated with excessive social media usage.

While one would think that the younger generation would be against it, some Columbus students support the bill.

Sophomore Charlie Gutierrez said, “The issue with children under the age of 16 using social throughout the week Monday through Thursday is damaging them mentally and causing social insecurities.”

However, this move has sparked a massive debate. Supporters of the bill argue that it's a necessary step to shrinking the social insecurities caused by social media in Florida. By stepping in and placing age restrictions, they hope to shorten these risks and promote healthier online habits among young users.

On the other hand, critics raise several concerns about the proposed legislation. One major issue is the potential of shrinking the right to freedom of speech, both for social media companies and young individuals. By forcing age-based restrictions on social media usage, there's a fear that the government could be overstretching its power and limiting people's ability to express themselves online. Additionally, many teens rely on social media to make friends over social media platforms.

Freshman Daniel Medina said, "I'm worried about not being able to text my cousins who live in Arizona. Our relationship might suffer because of this new rule, and that's frustrating for me. I can see what they’re up to and everything.”

Moreover, past legal challenges to similar laws in states like Arkansas and Ohio have highlighted the issues involved in regulating social media. Courts have expressed skepticism about the depth of such measures and questioned their effectiveness in achieving their intended goals.

If signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis, the Florida bill would require social media platforms to take steps to prevent underage individuals from creating accounts and deactivate accounts suspected of belonging to minors. This would impact popular platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube.

Some argue that tech-savvy youth will easily find ways to work their way around these rules, such as faking their age or using other people's accounts.

Omar Delgado, Director of Media Publications and Educational Technology Specialist at Columbus, thinks students will still be able to access social media.

“Regardless of a ban kids are always going to get around it without parental permission,” he said.

All in all, the debate over the Florida social media bill highlights the ongoing challenges of navigating the intersection between technology, regulation, and youth well-being in the digital age.

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