Florida Law Bans Minors From Social Media

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis | Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law on Monday meant to prevent minors under the age of 14 from using social media.

The bill is reported to be a “watered-down” version of a bill DeSantis vetoed earlier in the month, as reported by The Associated Press. The original bill would have banned minors under the age of 16. The new bill includes compromises that allow 14- and 15-year-olds access to social media with parental consent.

The bill easily cleared both Houses before being signed but is expected to be challenged in court by social media groups and First Amendment organizations. Arkansas previously passed a similar ban that was found to be unconstitutional due to the restrictions on freedom of speech.

For instance, First Amendment rights have been voiced by opponents of a recent effort by Congress to ban TikTok over security issues, as reported by The Dallas Express. They have also been at the center of the Supreme Court’s ongoing review of bills in Texas and Florida that would restrict social media companies from certain types of content moderation the states claim is used to reduce conservative viewpoints while pushing left-leaning ideologies.

Nevertheless, DeSantis, who graduated with honors from Harvard Law School, believes the new bill on minors and social media will pass muster.

“Any time I see a bill, if I don’t think it’s constitutional, I veto it,” DeSantis said, per AP. “We not only satisfied me, but we also satisfied, I think, a fair application of the law and Constitution.”

The bill was authored by Florida Rep. Paul Renner (R-Palm Coast), who made the effort his legislative priority this year.

“A child in their brain development doesn’t have the ability to know that they’re being sucked into these addictive technologies and to see the harm and step away from it, and because of that we have to step in for them,” Renner said at the bill-signing ceremony, per AP.

Recently, legislators have increasingly focused on issues grappling with minors’ access to social media. Their rationale has centered on how minors can fall victim to a variety of scams and abuse, which can be challenging for parents to identify and are often difficult for investigators to solve.

Moreover, shows like Undercover Underage have helped expose the dangers of social media to parents and bring the issue into the spotlight.

Some local law enforcement agencies appear to support the latest legislative initiative.

“Well, the thing about the internet is you can be anybody at any given time. Within a matter of minutes, you can have a social media platform identifying yourself as the complete opposite of what you are,” Bay County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Jeremy Mathis told local media outlet WJHG 7.

“For years that’s been a concern and an issue, and we’ve seen cases where they initially start off portraying themselves as somebody new to the area, a child about the age of the child, and then from there they get pictures and make solicitations or requests.”

Mathis added that even innocent actions like posting pictures of a soccer match can be a gateway for predators to identify and find minors.

While the latest Florida bill passed easily, some state representatives believe it is a misguided effort.

“This bill goes too far in taking away parents’ rights,” Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani said in a news release. “Instead of banning social media access, it would be better to ensure improved parental oversight tools, improved access to data to stop bad actors, alongside major investments in Florida’s mental health systems and programs.”

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