Staver suggests legislators trade chainsaw for scalpel

Staver suggests legislators trade chainsaw for scalpel

Staver suggests legislators trade chainsaw for scalpel

Noting the Florida House's good intentions in passing a bill to keep children under 16 years old from popular social media platforms, an attorney is mindful of the First Amendment.

The House voted 106-13 for the measure this week, with several Democrats joining Republicans in support. The ban would apply regardless of parent approval.

The bill does not name the platforms it would affect, but it does promise to impact those that track user activity, allow users to upload content, interact with others, and purposefully use addictive features. The apps used for private messaging would not be affected.

Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel says the intentions are good, but he is not sure if this is a good move.

Staver, Mat (Liberty Counsel) Staver

"I understand what the legislators are trying to do, because there is a real problem with minors being lured online, sex-ploitation, other kinds of targeting of minors and bullying online," he acknowledges. "But on the other hand, there's a First Amendment that we must consider, and whether you're 16 or 17 or 14 years of age, you have First Amendment rights."

So he suggests the lawmakers back down on this a little.

"You need to use a scalpel rather than a chainsaw when you're dealing with this kind of action that impinges on free speech," says Staver.

As overwhelming as the House vote was for this needed protection, he reiterates the need to be "very conscious of not violating the First Amendment."

The bill would require social media companies to close any accounts it believes to be used by minors and to cancel accounts at the request of a minor or parents. Any information pertaining to the account must be deleted.

Opponents argue that the measure violates the First Amendment and takes away benefits some children get from social media. They also say parents should make the decisions on which sites their children can visit.

House Speaker Paul Renner (R), who has made the issue his top priority, thinks it will withstand constitutional scrutiny because it targets the addictive features of social media and not the content.