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Social media apps on a smartphone: Young people should stay outside

Photo: Jonathan Raa / NurPhoto / IMAGO

The law is too radical even for Republican Ron DeSantis: After both chambers of parliament in Florida's capital Tallahassee voted by a large majority in favor of a radical social media ban for young people under the age of 16, the governor of Florida has to decide within two weeks whether he actually wants to put the new bans into effect.

The ban would affect all social media websites that track user activity, allow children to upload material and interact with others, and encourage excessive or compulsive use.

Advocates point to rising child suicide rates, cyberbullying and sexual predators using social media to spy on children.

The operators would be forced to verify the age of users before they can create an account.

US states are mobilizing against apps

The state House of Representatives passed the bill on Thursday by a vote of 108-7, just hours after the Senate approved it by a vote of 23-14.

Utah, Arkansas, Texas and Ohio had previously passed similar regulations in the name of protecting minors, but some of them were overturned by US federal courts due to constitutional concerns.

Florida advocates hope their law will survive potential lawsuits because it bans social media formats that rely on addictive features like autoplay videos, rather than the content of their websites.

However, opponents emphasize that the far-reaching rules represent a blatant violation of the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of expression.

And that it should be left to parents, not the government, to monitor children's social media use.

The governor had repeatedly advocated letting parents decide whether to use social media apps.

However, DeSantis did not get through to the parliamentarians, who passed the law surprisingly early.

"We're talking about companies using addictive features to manipulate and harm our children on a massive scale," said Republican Senator Erin Grall, who supported the full ban.

There was also support on the Democratic side.

DeSantis, who Donald Trump recently mentioned as a possible candidate for the vice presidency, has caused a stir in the past with the so-called "Don't say gay" law.

The law prohibits teachers from teaching the topics of sexual orientation and gender identity “in a way that is not age or developmentally appropriate for students.”

As a result, many books were banned from the state's libraries, including works by William Shakespeare.