Legislature passes fresh iteration of child social media restrictions

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Unlike a bill vetoed by Ron DeSantis, this one allows parents of 14- and 15-year-olds the final say.

The Legislature has passed a new version of legislation restricting social media use by minors. The move came days after Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed a blanket ban on accounts for any children under the age of 16.

The House voted 109-4 to pass a new version of the bill (HB 3) after the Senate approved the legislation earlier in the week. The bill was a priority for House Speaker Paul Renner.

Rep. Tyler Sirois, a Merritt Island Republican who carried the bill, suggested that the bill could be a course corrector for a generation of children.

“For our children, social media is no town square. It is a dark alley,” Sirois said. “The harm that is causing our children is documented and it is severe.”

The final bill was actually originally passed in the House purely as a requirement for pornography websites and others publishing content harmful to children to verify users’ age through a third party. The Senate rolled the language of that legislation into the original social media bill (HB 1) that was nixed by DeSantis.

The Governor weeks ahead of the veto signaled legal concerns about cutting parents out of discussion. But the new bill headed for his desk addresses that, at least in part. It will allow legal guardians of 14- and 15-year-olds to override a prohibition on opening or maintaining social media accounts.

The legislation will only restrict access on social media platforms with certain addictive features such as endless scrolling and video auto play. It also only imposes age restrictions on platforms where more than 10% of young users are active on the platforms for more than two hours a day.

But the bill still drew some opposition, both on First Amendment grounds and continued concerns about an all-out ban for minors ages 13 and younger.

“Are we as a state Legislature attempting to pass what I feel is an unconstitutional bill that will immediately be challenged in the courts where it has little chance of success?” asked Rep. Angie Nixon, a Jacksonville Democrat.

Rep. Michele Rayner, a St. Petersburg Democrat, co-introduced the bill and has focused on constitutional concerns. She stressed that the bill doesn’t regulate content when it comes to social media platforms.

“I challenge you all to show me a page number in a line where this actually restricts content, because if it does, I will fall on my sword and say I’m wrong,” Rayner said.

“I don’t believe that this will actually be defeated in courts.”

Rep. Anna Eskamani raised privacy concerns, as a restriction on use of platforms by minors requires age verification for all users. The Orlando Democrat pressed sponsors on whether the legislation could compromise personal identification measures, whether that’s driver’s licenses, birth certification or any other sensitive data.

She called it “intellectually dishonest” to argue that the Legislature needed to outlaw social media use to protect children.

“I am all too familiar with the argument here that if I were to ban assault weapons, bad people would still get to the guns,” she said, “so I just don’t buy that argument. I think that whether you ban a platform or not, bad people are still going to find ways to impact our kids.”

But Rep. Fiona McFarland, a Sarasota Republican, cited a Digital Bill of Rights signed by DeSantis last year that safeguards personal information.

“We passed the bill last Session regarding consumer data privacy that goes into effect this July,” McFarland said. “That will protect all data, no matter how old you are, that are collected by these social media companies.”

The new bill ultimately received broader support in the House and Senate than the bill killed earlier in the Session. DeSantis also signaled he has negotiated with legislators to craft a better bill he can sign.

But many advocacy groups remain concerned about the legislation. NetChoice has come out against the latest version of the bill.

“HB 3 is still I.D. for the internet, and NetChoice calls on Gov. DeSantis to oppose it, too,” said Carl Szabo, General Counsel for NetChoice.

“To verify that a minor is under 16 and that the adult verifying is actually that minor’s parent or guardian, that will in effect require social media companies to verify identities. This is the same unconstitutional idea as Ohio had, and a federal judge has already granted NetChoice an injunction against that law. Courts across the country have been shooting down these types of laws as unconstitutional. It’s time for lawmakers to find a better way, like NetChoice’s SHIELD proposals.”

Renner said he anticipates lawsuits but feels confident it will stand muster.

“Florida kids do not belong to you,” Renner said in response to a social media post by NetChoice. “We will not give up the fight to keep kids safe online.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • JD

    March 6, 2024 at 7:10 pm

    But they allow your child’s name, phone number, and address and age data to be sold from the school district to FOR PROFIT charter and voucher schools.

    So stop the sham assh0les. FLGOP is all about the grift.

  • Fl Legislature bad at legislating

    March 6, 2024 at 10:05 pm

    Doesn’t this clearly violate the Single Subject requirement, since it now covers two different topics?

  • FL Legislature is bad

    March 6, 2024 at 10:06 pm

    Doesn’t this clearly run afoul the Single Subject requirement, since it now covers two different topics?

  • Outwitted, Underwater & Uninsurable Florida

    March 7, 2024 at 1:36 am

    You’re both expecting too much; tamper your goals for these troglodytes.

  • Dont Say FLA

    March 7, 2024 at 7:38 am

    Can I sign up at the DMV for my State of Florida Social Media User License that I give to social media providers to prove I am of age?

    And then Florida uses my social media user license identifier to identify all my content as belonging to me?

    And then fraudsters and scammers get my State of Florida Social Media User License and use it for identity theft and mark me as the sender of spam?

    Great idea! Where do I sign up? It’ll be at the DMV, right?

  • Ron Forrest Ron

    March 7, 2024 at 7:41 am

    To answer Angie Nixon’s question, “Are we as a state Legislature attempting to pass what I feel is an unconstitutional bill that will immediately be challenged in the courts where it has little chance of success?”


    FLgOP Gov Rhonda has a Ivy League law degree, area: baseball, focus: pitching. Rhonda goes for strikeouts.

  • Linwood Wright

    March 7, 2024 at 10:54 am

    Unenforceable legislation.

Comments are closed.


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