DeSantis Signs Bill to Protect Youth From Social Media

( – Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a controversial bill on March 24th that prohibits minors under the age of 14 from having a social media account if they live in the state.

Paul Renner, Florida’s Republican House Speaker, called the Internet a “dark alley” for minors and claimed that it threatens children with addictive features, depression, and child predators. He praised DeSantis for taking steps to limit the access children have to social networking platforms.

The bill will also require minors aged 14-15 to prove parental consent before the state permits them to use a social media platform. DeSantis defended the bill during a press conference by claiming that it’s “as good a job as you can do.” He also believes that it has Constitutional merit.

However, the free expression group NetChoice expressed concern that the law will essentially serve as an Internet ID. They noted that the bill requires age verification for many platforms, apps, and websites, essentially leading to the potential for significant invasions of privacy. They also called the law unconstitutional and said it won’t actually protect anyone in Florida. Actually, the group claims that it will leave more personal data open to exploitation. Carl Szabo, the group’s vice president, said there are ways to protect children online without violating Floridians’ freedoms. Additionally, they noted that minors often build healthy social connections online, and may even earn a significant income from their social media accounts.

Under the law, websites and social media platforms discovered to have knowingly provided access to minors could face a $50,000 fine for each violation. It will also tack on fees and court costs to that penalty. It would also give minors $10,000 to cover damages if they maintain access even after making the provider aware of their age or if their guardians said the account must be closed.

Several states have attempted to pass similar legislation in the past but have often been shut down by federal courts. Renner said he welcomes legal challenges from NetChoice and similar groups, saying his state would ultimately win. DeSantis expressed similar sentiments and said that the state would fight diligently to keep the law.

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