Florida Lawmakers Prepare for Gov. DeSantis to Veto Social Media Ban on Children Under 16

March 1, 2024by Brendan Farrington, Associated Press
Florida Lawmakers Prepare for Gov. DeSantis to Veto Social Media Ban on Children Under 16
Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, asks a question in the Florida House of Representatives, May 25, 2022 at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Florida. (AP Photo/Phil Sears)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida lawmakers were bracing for Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto a bill banning social media for children under 16 on Friday and finding a way to make him more comfortable with its language before their session ends next week.

DeSantis supports the intention behind the bill that Republican House Speaker Paul Renner made his top priority. However, the governor said he has concerns that the language might not adequately protect privacy.

The House sent DeSantis the bill a week earlier. It would create one of the nation’s most restrictive bans on the use by minors of social media by targeting any platform that tracks user activity, allows children to upload material and interact with others, and uses addictive features designed to cause excessive or compulsive use. Supporters point to rising suicide rates among children, cyberbullying and predators using social media to prey on kids.

Negotiations on new language continued as DeSantis approached Friday’s deadline to act on the bill. The Senate announced it will amend language on a similar bill that’s still in committee to keep the issue alive if DeSantis vetoes the bill. Those changes would be made Monday, giving lawmakers five days to pass another ban more palatable to DeSantis.

Several states have considered similar legislation, but most have not proposed a total ban. In Arkansas, a federal judge blocked enforcement of a law in August that required parental consent for minors to create new social media accounts.

Supporters say the approach in Florida will withstand legal challenges because it would ban social media formats based on addictive features such as notification alerts and autoplay videos, rather than on the content on their sites.

But opponents say it blatantly violates the First Amendment and that it should be left to parents, not the government, to monitor children’s social media use.

The Florida 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.

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