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DeSantis Signs Off on Social Media Ban

New law to go into effect in January


GAINESVILLE — A new Florida law banning young teens from using social media—rewritten after Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed an earlier proposal—will take effect in January after the governor signed it into law Monday. He warned parents about predators online.

"You can have a kid in the house, safe seemingly, and then you have predators that can get right in there, into your own home," DeSantis said at a press conference Monday in Jacksonville. "You could be doing everything right, but they know how to get and manipulate these different platforms."

Anticipating legal challenges, House Speaker Paul Renner said he was confident the new Florida law would survive in the courts.

Still, it wasn’t clear which popular online platforms might be covered under Florida’s new law—if any of them.

The law blocks anyone under 16 from using some social media but allows 14- and 15-year-olds to use the online services with a parent’s permission. It also requires companies that "knowingly and intentionally" publish or distribute material harmful to minors—or platforms that contain a substantial portion of material harmful to minors—to verify each user's age.

The new law covers only social media platforms with 10% or more of daily active users who are younger than 16 and who spend an average of two hours or more on the service. Both conditions must be met, or the law doesn’t apply to that social media provider.

Lawmakers haven’t identified which social media companies would be affected and which wouldn’t.

The narrow requirements under the new legislation would appear to exclude Facebook, X (formerly known as Twitter), Instagram, Reddit, and other popular platforms but may include Snapchat and TikTok, which are more oriented to young users, according to recent demographic figures each company has released publicly.

The proposal initially enforced a blanket ban on social media for all minors under 16, but DeSantis vetoed it because he said parents should be allowed to decide whether 14 and 15-year-olds can use social media. The new law doesn’t specify how social media companies—even the ones that are covered by the new rules – would verify that a parent-approved a 14 or 15-year-old to be online.

Websites and social media services are already restricted in ways they can interact with users under 13 years old under a 1998 federal law, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. That law requires companies to notify and obtain a parent's permission before any personal information can be collected or used.

The new Florida law targets social media services that automatically play one video after another and ones that allow users to continue to scroll through content. 

“These platforms are intentionally designed to keep children engaged for excessive amounts of time in an effort to monetize their behavior to their own detriment,” said Sen. Erin Grall, R-Fort Pierce, who championed the bill in the Legislature. 

The law had been a priority of the House speaker, Renner, R-Palm Coast, who said the fact that it focused on companies offering what he described as “addictive scrolling” would overcome concerns about First Amendment violations in the courts.

The trade association for social media companies, NetChoice LLC, had urged DeSantis to veto the bill and signaled legal challenges were inevitable. 

“If I said to you that a company was going to take children and use addiction that causes them harm for profit, what does that sound like? Sounds like trafficking to me,” Renner said. “This digital trafficking is exactly what groups like NetChoice … will sue the second after this is signed. But you know what? We’re going to beat them.”

The top lawyer for NetChoice, Carl Szabo, said in an interview that the group was disappointed the governor signed the new law, known as House Bill 3. He said the law will force users to turn over sensitive personal information to verify they can legally access online content. 

“This infringes on Floridians’ First Amendment rights to share and access speech online,” he said.

Florida’s attorney general, Ashley Moody, is already part of a multi-state lawsuit against the corporate owners of Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Google and others in a federal case moving through the courts in northern California. The lawsuit accuses the companies of relying on business models to keep children addicted to their platforms. 

“My primary role in life? Mom,” said Moody, who has two older sons. “If we cannot protect our children in this digital frontier of the Wild Wild West, there is no way with their maturity level and inexperience in life they will ever be able to protect themselves.”

This story was produced by Fresh Take Florida, a news service of the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. The reporter can be reached at erina.anwar@ufl.edu. You can donate to support our students here.


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  • kmskepton

    But I thought "Free Florida" was all about parental rights?

    Wednesday, March 27 Report this

  • jimandlope

    Agree. It’s only about parental rights when it comes to schools and curriculums. In the “free,” state of Florida governed by a dictator like Governor it’s different when it comes to social media. Jim Tierney

    Wednesday, March 27 Report this