A bill that paves the way for mandatory digital IDs is advancing in Florida’s state legislature.
The legislation seeks to ban children under 16 years old from using social media.
On the surface, the bill states that it is aimed at protecting the privacy and well-being of minors by restricting social media to those aged 16 and over.
The bill mandates rigorous age verification and calls for existing accounts of underage users to be deleted while purging any stored personal information.
However, while the bill appears to be in the interest of protecting children, it also mandates that anyone who is 16 or older must prove their age to be able to use social media.
As such, adults would need to have a “digital ID” if they wish to continue logging into their social media accounts.
The legislation calls for age verification through an independent, third-party digital ID that is unrelated to the social media platform.
A bipartisan majority in the Florida House has ratified the bill with a vote of 106-13.
It now awaits receipt by the Republican-majority Senate.
Drawn up to address platforms with potential “addictive, harmful, or deceptive design features,” this legislation is aimed at deterring persistent or compulsive usage influenced by digital design.
Republican state lawmaker and bill co-sponsor Fiona McFarland equated social media usage designed to trigger dopamine releases to a “digital fentanyl.”
Florida’s move comes against the backdrop of growing concern over the impact of social media on kids’ mental health and well-being.
Last year, Democrat President Joe Biden’s Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued a warning on the potential harms of social media for children and adolescents.
Murthy has been calling for more research into the area.
The implementation of online age verification systems is increasingly demanding the requirement for the digital IDs rollout.
It has sparked a significant debate about the balance between internet safety and free speech.
These systems are designed to verify the age of users, ostensibly to protect younger audiences from inappropriate content or to ensure compliance with legal age restrictions.
However, they often necessitate the use of digital IDs, which can include personal information like name, age, and sometimes even location.
This shift towards digital IDs for age verification purposes raises concerns about the erosion of online anonymity and the ability to speak under a pseudonym.