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New Florida law meant to protect minors from social media ills

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis applauds during a press conference at the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District headquarters at Walt Disney World, in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Photo by Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via The Associated Press

New Florida law meant to protect minors from social media ills

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed a state law prohibiting social media accounts for minors under the age of 14. The law requires that online platforms delete any accounts for children under that age. The law also requires parental consent for 15- and 16-year-olds to open a social media account. Pornographic or sexually explicit websites are also required to use age verification to keep out minors. The law is scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2025.

Why did supporters back the law? DeSantis on Monday told reporters the ban was necessary to protect children from sexual predators. “Now with things like social media … you can have a kid in the house safe seemingly, and then you have predators that can get right in there into your own home,” DeSantis said. “They know how to get and manipulate these different platforms.”

Has there been any pushback against the law? Some advocacy groups say the bill could interfere with young people’s First Amendment right to free speech and protest. Other critics have accused the bill of trying to limit speech related to the LGBT agenda.

State Rep. Anna V. Eskamani, a Democrat from Orlando, called it a “sweeping prohibition” of youth that “tells Florida families how to parent.” Although she thinks the law goes too far, she added, “I agree more needs to be done in protecting our youth on social media.”

Will the law be challenged? DeSantis acknowledged on Monday that he expects social media companies to sue. However, he said he was confident the law would hold up in court. In August, a federal judge temporarily blocked enforcement of a similar Arkansas law. In November, a tech industry group called NetChoice filed a motion asking the judge in the Arkansas case to issue a final ruling without a trial.

Dig deeper: Read Travis Kircher’s report in The Sift about how a pornography website shut down in Texas after a state law required adult sites to use age verification.

Travis K. Kircher

Travis is the associate breaking news editor for WORLD.

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