DeSantis Pulls Trigger On Sweeping Social Media Law

Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has signed what is now the most restrictive law directed at social media platforms.

The bill, which DeSantis signed Monday, will ban any child who’s 14 years old or younger from having a social media account. Parental permission will also be required for any 15 or 16 year old who wants to have an account.

Earlier in the month, DeSantis vetoed a similar bill, but this version is a watered-down version of it. That previous version would’ve banned social media for any minor 16 years old or younger, regardless if they got parental consent.

The governor then worked out a compromise with the bill’s lead sponsor, House Speaker Paul Renner, that alleviated DeSantis’ concerns, which resulted in the Legislature sending him a new bill.

If it’s now challenge in court — which is widely expected — the law will go into effect on January 1, 2025.

At the bill signing ceremony, which was held at a school in Jacksonville, Renner said:

“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, and because of that, we have to step in for them.”

Florida is the first state to enact a restrictive social media ban, though several other states have considered bills that are similar.

A federal judge blocked an Arkansas law from being enforced last August. It would’ve required parents to give their consent for a minor to create an account on a social media platform.

It’s very likely that legal challenges will be filed to this new law in Florida, though its supporters hope that it can sustain them. They believe that it might live up to merit due to the fact that the bans are in place based on addictive features of the platforms, including auto-play videos and notification alerts, rather than just on the content that’s on the platforms.

In his comments, Renner said that he expects that social media companies will “sue the second after this is signed. But, you know what? We’re going to beat them. We’re going to beat them, and we’re never, ever going to stop.”

Even DeSantis acknowledged that legal challenges are sure to follow based on issues surrounding the First Amendment.

The Florida governor knows first-hand how such challenges can go, as his “Stop Woke Act” that was signed two years ago recently was struck down at the appellate level, even though a majority of the judges on it were appointed by Republican presidents.

The court ruled that the act violated free speech rights because it banned private businesses from having discussions about racial inequality during employee training programs.

Even so, DeSantis expressed confidence that this new law will be upheld. As he said:

“Any time I see a bill, if I don’t think it’s constitutional, I veto it. We not only satisfied me, but we also satisfied, I think, a fair application of the law and Constitution.”