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DeSantis signs social media bill banning accounts for children under 14

Florida on Monday became the first state to ban residents under the age of 14 from having accounts on services like TikTok and Instagram, enacting a strict social media bill that risks upending the lives of many young people.

THE historical law, signed by Governor Ron DeSantis, is one of the most restrictive measures a state has adopted so far as part of a growing national campaign to protect young people from potential risks to mental health and safety on social media platforms. The law prohibits some social networks from giving accounts to children under 14 and requires services to terminate accounts that a platform knew or believed belonged to underage users.

It also requires platforms to obtain authorization from a parent before giving accounts to young people aged 14 and 15.

At a news conference Monday, Mr. DeSantis praised the measure, saying it will help parents navigate “difficult terrain” online. He added that “being buried” in devices all day long was not the best way to grow up.

“Social media harms children in a variety of ways,” DeSantis said in a statement. The new bill “gives parents greater ability to protect their children.”

Mr. DeSantis vetoed a previous bill that would have banned social media accounts for 14- and 15-year-olds, even with parental consent. The governor said the previous bill would infringe on parents’ rights to make decisions about their children’s online activities.

Florida’s new measure is almost certain to face constitutional challenges over the rights of young people to freely seek information and the rights of businesses to disseminate information.

Federal judges in several other states have recently suspended less restrictive online safety laws on free speech grounds, in response to lawsuits filed by NetChoice, a tech industry trade group that represents companies like such as Meta, Snap and TikTok.

Judges in Ohio and Arkansas, for example, blocked laws in those states that would require some social networks to verify the age of users and get permission from a parent before giving accounts to children under 16 or 18 years old. A federal judge in California has suspended a law. In this state, it would force some social networks and video game apps to enable the highest privacy settings by default for minors and disable certain features, like autoplaying videos, for those users by default.

In addition to age restrictions on social media, Florida’s new law requires online pornography services to use age verification systems to keep minors off their platforms.

Apps like Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram already have policies banning children under 13. Indeed, the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act requires certain online services to obtain parental permission before collecting personal information, such as full names, contact information, locations or selfie photos – children under 13 years old.

But state regulators say millions of minor children were able to create social media accounts simply by providing false dates of birth.

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