Gov. DeSantis signs social media, pornography age verification requirements

social media 2017
While he vetoed a prior version over parental consent issues, he said the bill will protect children.

Age verification requirements will soon be required for Floridians to access porn — or social media. And for the latter, 14- and 15-year-olds will need parental permission to log on.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, with House Speaker Paul Renner by his side, signed a high-profile tech bill (HB 3) imposing regulations on tech companies. The legislation was some of the most heavily debated and negotiated during the Legislative Session, and represents a compromise after the Governor vetoed a prior social media bill (HB 1).

But DeSantis said the legislation will help Florida families, and characterized the final product as a tool to protect children from danger.

“With things like social media and all this, 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. “You could be doing everything right, but they know how to get and manipulate these different platforms.”

Renner made the social media bill a priority this Session, and said modern technology has compromised the mental health of youth.

“A child in their brain development doesn’t have the ability to know that they’re being sucked into these addictive technologies and to see the harm and step away from it,” Renner said. “And because of that, we have to step in for them.”

The law goes into effect on Jan. 1.

Notably, the legislation doesn’t identify specific platforms with features like infinite scrolling and video autoplay, and where a substantial portion of teen users spend more than two hours a day actively using the service.

It covers platforms that publicly share user-created content, such as YouTube and TikTok, but not ones featuring only licensed content, like Netflix or Instagram. It also covers microblogging platforms that widely disseminate posts in a public forum, such as Facebook, X and Instagram, but not private messaging programs like Snapchat or WhatsApp.

But Sen. Erin Grall, a Vero Beach Republican who sponsored the legislation, noted that platforms can eliminate features and they won’t be subject to age verification requirements. Similarly, platforms that aren’t covered that add the addictive features would become subject to the law immediately. The law covers platforms regardless of the number of account holders and users.

She stressed that the addictive nature of platforms, more than any content online, made use by children inherently problematic.

“I encourage all of you, if you have a small child who’s used to being on a tablet, take it away for a couple minutes. See what happens,” she said.

But the legislation took some public back-and-forth with the Governor’s Office. DeSantis, while calling social media a net negative for minors, said legal concerns faced with provisions of other state laws made him wary of a bill with no exception for teens who have parental permission to open accounts.

DeSantis vetoed the first version of a social media restriction passed by the Legislature out of concern that courts would not hold up a ban on accounts for any users under age 16, even with consent from a parent or legal guardian. He also had concerns about whether the legislation allowed for adults engaging in anonymous speech online.

But lawmakers had sent the legislation to DeSantis while the 60-day Session was still unfolding, anticipating a potential veto. By the time a veto was announced, lawmakers introduced an amendment to a pornography bill that addressed the Governor’s concerns while still cracking down on social media use by children.

The new legislation still bars anyone under age 13 from opening or maintaining a social media account. While the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, in effect since 2000, already prohibits minors from having internet accounts, the Florida bill puts enforcement measures in place.

It does so by placing the onus on social media platforms, requiring the use of a third-party provider to verify the age of users.

The new statute still prohibits those under 16 from having accounts unless they obtain permission from a parent or legal guardian. If a platform knowingly violates the law, parents can bring a legal claim against the company and be awarded up to $10,000 in damages, in addition to court costs.

The social media language after the veto was added onto a bill passed in the House which similarly imposes age verification requirements on pornography websites and any other publishers of content known to be “harmful to minors.”

The bill has drawn opposition from tech companies. Renner guessed that NetChoice would sue Florida over the legislation on behalf of social media platforms but predicted victory in court because the legislation was focused on addictive features, not content online.

“You better believe I’m going to fight like hell to uphold this in court,” said Attorney General Ashley Moody.

Before the signing, NetChoice called the bill “unconstitutional” and DeSantis’ willingness to sign it as “disappointing.”

“An unconstitutional law will protect exactly zero Floridians. HB 3 is also bad policy because of the data collection on Floridians by online services it will in effect require. This will put their private data at risk of breach,” said Carl Szabo, NetChoice Vice President and General Counsel.

“HB 3 forces Floridians to hand over sensitive personal information to websites or lose their access to critical information channels. This infringes on Floridians’ First Amendment rights to share and access speech online.”

Rep. Tyler Sirois, a Merritt Island Republican and the bill’s lead House sponsor, said free speech arguments were insincere.

“I expect moving forward Floridians are going to hear from these companies that they are bastions of free speech, that they are the town square for our children,” he said. “These companies are no town square. They are a dark alley. They are a dark alley, in which our children are exposed to dangers that parents spend their entire lives having nightmares about.”

Additionally, porn companies have signaled concerns about a continued focus on regulating publishers instead of imposing age restrictions at the device level. Pornhub has shut down access for all users in other states that have imposed age verification requirements.

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].


  • Dont Say FLA

    March 25, 2024 at 10:49 am

    Either Rhonda has no clue that AI can very easily flag pervs for preying upon children.

    Or, Rhonda wants the state to issue social media user licenses “to prove age verification without releasing personal information to social media companies, do it for the kids.”

    Of course a government license ID being attached to every social media user will be useless unless every social media interaction is required to have associated to it the state license ID for its user-author permanently stored with every online interaction they make and, retroactively applied to every interaction ever made previously via the same social media account.

    Rhonda wants to know who said what, and that ain’t just for the childrens. That is for everybody.

  • Porn ID

    March 25, 2024 at 10:51 am

    Will the porn ID be required to watch the DeSantis campaign’s videos that proved how, um, ANTI-gay Ron is, and how, um, MANLY he is?

    Because those videos were very “anti” (cough cough) gay and, ahem, so very “manly”

  • Tom

    March 25, 2024 at 11:33 am

    People are too stupid to think for themselves so the government needs to act on our behalf. I though republicans were all about small government? The overreach just gets worse by the week.

    “A child in their brain development doesn’t have the ability to know that they’re being sucked into these addictive technologies and to see the harm and step away from it,” Renner said. “And because of that, we have to step in for them.”

  • Terry Ward

    March 25, 2024 at 4:03 pm

    this should work

Comments are closed.


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