A Texas bill is aimed at banning all minors from social media, supposedly for their own good.
State Representative Jared Patterson, a Republican from North Texas, has filed a bill meant to require all social media users to be at least 18 years old.
“Once thought to be perfectly safe for users, social media access to minors has led to remarkable rises in self-harm, suicide, and mental health issues,” he said, comparing social media to cigarettes and alcohol.
His proposal, Texas Bill HB 896, would put the onus on social media platforms to verify that all of their users are of age. It specifies that they would be require to verify users’ ages and identities with photo identification.
“The harms social media poses to minors are demonstrable not just in the internal research from the very social media companies that create these addictive products, but in the skyrocketing depression, anxiety, and even suicide rates we are seeing afflict children,” said Greg Sindelar, CEO of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank which mostly concerns itself with trying to ban education about climate change. “We are tremendously grateful for Rep. Jared Patterson’s leadership on keeping this precious population safe, and TPPF is fully supportive of prohibiting social media access to minors to prevent the perpetual harms of social media from devastating the next generation of Texans.”
While many agree that heavy social media use is detrimental to children an adults alike, many are very concerned with the inevitable violation of privacy that would be necessary to enforce this ruling. Forcing Facebook and Twitter to require verifying IDs is invasive, making it all-too-easy for free speech to be penalized by employers, government, or the platform itself.
This is a remarkably anti-free speech position for Patterson, who usually toes the Republican party line, having backed bills against abortion, for gun rights, and to expand the authority of law enforcement.