Ron DeSantis vetoes Florida bill banning social media for most kids

Mike Powers


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) vetoed what would have been one of the nation’s most restrictive bans against children using social media on Friday, drawing a line in the debate over kids’ online safety over concerns the bill did not allow parents to supervise teens’ activity.

The bill is the latest in a series of Republican-led state measures aimed at tackling bipartisan concerns that platforms are worsening youth mental health and well-being.

But unlike laws in Utah and Arkansas blocking kids under 13 from setting up accounts and requiring parents to provide consent for some teens to join platforms, the Florida bill would have prohibited all minors up to 15 from creating social media accounts, the most stringent such prohibition yet.

But DeSantis said he is working with state officials on a “different, superior” alternative plan, without elaborating, meaning the state could still usher in new limits for children’s access to digital platforms like TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat.

“Protecting children from harms associated with social media is important, as is supporting parents’ rights,” DeSantis posted on X, formerly Twitter. “I anticipate the new bill will recognize these priorities and will be signed into law soon.”

DeSantis previously voiced concern that it did not strike the right balance between protecting children from potential harms and giving parents more control over their online activity.

During press conferences last week, DeSantis said that while he believes social media is a “net negative for kids,” it could still be positive in some instances with parental supervision, particularly for younger teens who would be subject to the ban under the measure.

“We can’t say a hundred percent of the uses are bad, because it’s not,” he said.

The remarks sparked speculation DeSantis might block the bill. DeSantis and state lawmakers have said in recent days that they had been in negotiations to hash out his concerns over the bill, which passed out of both of the state’s legislative chambers and headed to the governor’s desk last week.

Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo (R) said Thursday that to alter the bill passed by the state legislature, DeSantis would need to veto it and work with lawmakers to tackles his concerns before their legislative session wraps next week.

“My understanding is that they are in a really good spot,” Passidomo said of DeSantis and other state lawmakers at a press conference.

If signed, the measure is likely to face constitutional challenges, which have halted similar social media restrictions in Arkansas and Ohio, among other states. Federal judges have largely granted requests by tech industry groups for preliminary injunctions against those laws, finding that they likely violate free speech rights. Judges in those cases have at times also questioned the efficacy of the laws and whether they would address the issues they aim to solve around child mental health.

Tech industry and digital rights groups have argued that in addition to depriving children of positive online resources, the measures slyly force companies to collect vast reams of data to comply with their age vetting requirements.

NetChoice, a tech industry group suing to strike down similar state laws around the country, called on DeSantis to veto the measure in a letter last month — foreshadowing a potential conflict if it is signed. The group counts Meta, Amazon and Google as members. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Federal law requires that companies obtain parental consent to collect data from children under 13 under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA. Since its passage in 1998, many digital platforms have implemented rules banning kids under 13 from joining. DeSantis, however, has criticized federal enforcement of the law as too lax.

Some federal lawmakers have proposed bills to ban children under 16 from accessing social media or to require that parents sign off on teens’ use, like the GOP-led state laws. But dozens of senators on Capitol Hill have rallied around a separate proposal to instead require that companies take steps to prevent harms to children and provide more controls for parents over their activity without shutting kids off entirely.





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