Will the Protecting Minors on Social Media bill in the PA House really do what its name suggests?

May 9 – The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a bill yesterday, essentially along party lines, that addresses how social media companies interact with children. 

The bill was called Protecting Minors on Social Media. 

The vote came down 105-95. Ten of the Republicans voted with the majority for it and seven Democrats voted with the minority against it. 

The part that made the bill controversial were the amendments.  

PA Representative Rob Kauffman explained, “We’re trying now to have age parental verification if you enter social media. Then we got to the point where they had to amend it. They were attempting to amend it the day before and their members had concerns and these are things that aren’t reported.”

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM asked, “This bill would say you can’t touch social media until you’re 16. That’s the idea of it?” 

“That was the concept,” Kauffman confirmed. “I don’t expect that it will go anywhere. Obviously we want to (protect children). It’s not something you want to ignore in your home, in your community, in your school, but we want to now protect them from offensive and hate speech. Who defines this? We’re just running this down this slippery slope of feel good, how is it defined? How can it be distorted? There were Democrats who had real concerns with this. They were going to lose votes. The day before when this was going through the amendment process, there were various amendments that were going to lose the votes on the House floor. They held the board open for five to 10 minutes while they went to their Democrat members one by one. You watch the House Democrat leadership go to their members one by one and bully them into switching their votes over because they were going to lose the amendment. I don’t recall each amendment what it did, because there were various, but the reality is there are Democrats over on the other side who see how dangerous this entire narrative is, and they want to do the right thing, but their party leadership will not allow it.”

Ryan noted, “This is not unique to the parties. I’m certain this has happened on the Republican side as well. I mean, not on this particular vote.” 

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “No, no. It’s not normal. That’s the point. This is not normal.” 

Kauffman said, “Here’s the deal, though. The demand for ‘one think,’ uni-think, whatever you want to call it, is so accentuated on the Democrat side. We have far more diversity of thought and I’ll tell you, it frustrates us to no end on the House floor when Republicans aren’t unified, but it happens all the time. This week there were votes where we were like, if we would have been unified on that vote like we were on that vote, we would have been able to kill this bill. That is something that the Democrats have mastered. I think it’s in the current situation where they are so progressive so far off the rails. It’s disturbing to see.” 

The Protecting Minors on Social Media bill will go to the PA Senate. 

Kauffman predicted, “My gut says the Senate is not going to act on it because there wasn’t huge bipartisan support because everybody sees the dangers of getting into this. Let’s get to the reality of this. We need families engaged. We need parents engaged. If anybody thinks that this wouldn’t have a workaround, where whatever verification is placed in the bill, there’s not a workaround. The only thing that is going to solve this is parents getting engaged in their children’s lives, families being families, communities and schools being schools. Get the cell phones out of the schools. That’s the solution. But that’s certainly not in this legislation.”

Jansen pointed out, “There’s too much vagueness of definitions, what is hate speech? There’s the idea that you’re going to be reporting on other people. This can always devolve into some kind of pressure from the government that goes well beyond protecting children from harm of social media.”

Kauffman said, “I think the word in the bill may be ‘offensive.’ What a vague term.”

Jansen added, “To be able to put fines or other penalties on that kind of vague idea. That’s why I opposed the anti semitic bill at the federal government, because there’s too much vagary in there and too many ways that could be manipulated to start meaning things beyond what this bill intended. Lawmakers have got to be incredibly careful when they use language in these bills that could be taken in all kinds of unanticipated directions.”