Group urges DeSantis to veto Florida’s bill to keep kids off social media

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©2024 The News Service of Florida

A tech-industry group Thursday quickly urged Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto a bill that seeks to prevent children off social media platforms.

The group NetChoice sent a six-page letter to DeSantis arguing that the bill (HB 3), which got final legislative approval Wednesday, would violate First Amendment rights.

The bill, in part, would prevent children under age 16 from opening social-media accounts — though it would allow parents to give consent for 14- and 15-year-olds to have accounts.

Children under 14 could not open accounts. The NetChoice letter said courts have blocked similar laws passed in other states.

“The fact that HB 3 covers the internet rather than books, television programs or video games does not change the First Amendment issue,” the letter, signed by NetChoice Vice President and General Counsel Carl Szabo, said. “Social media websites provide access to speech on topics ranging from religious worship and political dialogue to sharing recipes and offering well-wishes. And the Supreme Court has made clear that the government lacks the ‘free-floating power to restrict the ideas to which children may be exposed.’”

The House on Wednesday voted 109-4 to approve the bill (HB 3), which passed the Senate on Monday.

It is ready to go to DeSantis, who is expected to sign it after vetoing an earlier version.

DeSantis negotiated on the issue with House Speaker Paul Renner, a Palm Coast Republican who has made curbing social-media use by children a priority.

Renner and other supporters of the bill argue that “addictive” social media harms children’s mental health and can lead to sexual predators communicating with minors.

“We’re talking about products that are not only addictive, these products are deliberately designed to be addictive,” Rep. Mike Beltran, a Riverview Republican who is an attorney, said Wednesday. “There’s a huge difference between the two of those.”

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