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Florida lawmakers file to protect children from sexual predators | #childpredator | #kidsaftey | #childsaftey

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Multiple Florida lawmakers Wednesday filed legislation aimed at protecting children from sexual predators.

Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, filed SB 1196, which increases penalties for groomers and predators, creates new guidelines for smartphone and tablet manufacturers, and works to target people who have “sexually explicit” online conversations with minors.

The legislation would require devices activated in Florida prevent themselves from accessing material “harmful to minors” through applications or the internet. It also must notify the user when the filter is activated to block certain content.

Additionally, the filter must give the user a password to bypass the filter. However, an individual would be held liable for disabling or removing the filter off a device used by a minor if such “harmful” content is accessed.

The bill states that only the parent or legal guardian would be authorized to remove the filter on a device possessed by a child.

And beginning Jan. 1, 2025, the manufacturers of such devices would be civilly and criminally liable if they don’t abide by the law, should it pass.

Rep. Michelle Salzman, R-Pensacola, filed the House version of the bill. If passed, it would take effect Oct. 1, 2024.

If passed, the attorney general would have latitude to enforce the law. Violations could result in fines up to $5,000 each.

“In an era where technology plays a pivotal role in our children’s lives, the introduction of the Protect Our Children Act stands as a crucial step forward,” Salzman said. “This legislation not only bolsters restrictions against sexual predators, but also establishes essential safeguards for our youth navigating the digital landscape.”

That bill also heightens penalties for “harmful communication” with minors. Specifically, that relationship is defined in the legislation as a person 18 years or older engages in “explicit” communication, and talks about sexual activities with the minor in various forms.

It provides an exemption for medical and educational instances.

Ingoglia also filed SB 1190, entitled “Online Sting Operations Grant Program,” which supports funding local law enforcement to target child sexual predators.

“These two bills will give law enforcement the tools they need in order to put online child predators behind bars for a long, long time,” Ingoglia said. “Keeping these lowlifes off the street and having them on the sex offender registry will help ensure our children are protected from the ever-present harms of social media platforms.”

Anti-groomer bill filed in Florida, cracking down on sexual communication with children

Rep. John Temple, R-Wildwood, filed the House version of the sting operation grant bill. If passed, it would take effect July 1, 2024.

“This grant doesn’t just bolster defense, it equips the very heroes who stand between our kids and harm, giving them the tools to make the internet a safe haven, not a hunting ground,” Temple said. “I am proud to file a bill that help protects our kids from evil.”

Also filed Wednesday was a short one-page bill creating the offense of “lewd or lascivious grooming.” Reps. Taylor Yarkosky, R-Montverde, and Douglas Bankson, R-Apopka, filed it.

The new offense would apply when someone either prepares or encourages a child to engage in sexual activity “through overtly sexually themed communication” with that child.

Additionally, it would apply if a child is made to view sexual communication without permission from the parent or guardian.

The bill says the penalty is when such actions are taken on people under 16.

Violators would face a second degree felony. If passed, it would take effect Oct. 1, 2024.

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