DeSantis Signs Social Media Ban And Restriction For Minors

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed a bill that would keep children below age 14 off social media platforms and restrict children age 15 and 16 on such platforms.

The bill, which was passed by lawmakers earlier this month as a priority of the annual legislative session, aims to stop children under age 16 from having social media accounts on some platforms. It does grant a reprieve to 14-to-15-year-olds, allowing them to have accounts if their parents consent to it. Children under 14 would not be allowed to have accounts at all.

The legislation, HB3, would also require social media companies to delete existing accounts that belong to children under 14.

The social media platforms that would be affected by the bill are not specified. However, the bill made it clear that platforms would be reviewed based on algorithms, “addictive features” and how it allows users to view the content or activities of other users.

While critics of the bill, which include tech-industry groups, claim that the bill is unconstitutional and violates First Amendment rights, state House Speaker Paul Renner and other proponents argue that social media platforms can be addictive and harmful to children’s mental health. They also point out the danger it poses by giving sexual predators a way to communicate with minors.

As Renner stated, the First Amendment argument cannot legally fly with the bill, as it focuses on the fact that the platforms are addictive, not the content on it.

“You will not find a line in this bill that addresses good speech or bad speech because that would violate the First Amendment. We’ve not addressed that at all. What we have addressed is the addictive features that are at the heart of why children stay on these platforms for hours and hours on end,” Renner said.

The legislation does not include age-verification requirements for social media platforms, as it would have affected adults who want to create accounts. Instead, compliance can be ensured through lawsuits against social-media platforms for violations of the age restrictions. The lawsuits could be filed on behalf of the minors by guardians or filed by Attorney General Ashley Moody.

Moody takes the legislation seriously, promising that she will give it her all during a bill-signing event in Jacksonville.

In her words, “You better believe, I am going to fight like hell to uphold this in court.”

According to the bill, the minor involved in a lawsuit against a social media company could be paid up to $10,000 in damages while a company guilty of violating the law would be liable for a fine of up to $50,000 for each violation and attorney’s fees.

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