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Social media ban for kids moves in Florida Senate, despite DeSantis’ concerns

Florida senators moved forward late Monday with a proposed social media ban for children that has drawn concerns from Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The measure (SB 1788) seeks to block users under 16 from using social media platforms with addictive features, regardless of parental approval.

The Florida House overwhelmingly approved the proposal (HB 1) in a 106-13 vote last month. The Senate’s Judiciary Committee advanced the bill Monday in a 7-2 vote.

DeSantis hasn’t committed to signing the proposed ban as it’s presently written. He said he has concerns about its “breadth” and whether it would pass legal review. Similar bans in other states are being challenged in the courts on First Amendment grounds.

Supporters say action is needed to protect children from social media platforms with addictive features, such as infinite scrolling, that are hurting young people’s mental health. They have likened social media to smoking or gambling.

“This is beyond any one family and any one parent-child relationship,” said Sen. Erin Grall, R-Fort Pierce, the bill’s sponsor. “This is something that the magnitude of has reached such a level we have to step in as a government.”

Opponents argue a ban overrides parental rights, runs afoul of the First Amendment and ignores the positive aspects of social media, such as fostering a sense of community.

“SB 1788 is a government censorship bill, and it is aimed at stifling the freedom of expression online and requiring all users, including adults, to verify their age by providing a photo ID or other age verification documentation,” said Kara Gross, legislative director and senior policy counsel for the ACLU of Florida.

The bill doesn’t list specific social media platforms, but it targets outlets that track user activity, allow children to upload content and contain “addictive” design features. Social media companies would need to use a third-party age verification system and terminate the accounts of underage users.

The legislation includes numerous exemptions, including for email, news outlets, direct messaging and streaming services.

Platforms that violate the law could face fines of up to $50,000 per violation. Parents could also bring private legal actions with fines of up $10,000 per violation.

House Speaker Paul Renner, who has made social media one of his top priorities, has said he expects the bill will be revised before it is sent to DeSantis for his signature.


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