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DeSantis vetoes Florida bill banning social media for most children

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The governor of Florida. Ron DeSantis (R) vetoed what would have been one of the nation’s most restrictive bans on children using social media on Friday, ending debate over children’s online safety amid concerns that the bill did not allow parents to supervise the activity of adolescents.

The bill is the latest Republican-led state measure aimed at addressing bipartisan concerns that the platforms worsen the mental health and well-being of young people.

But unlike laws in Utah and Arkansas that prevent children under 13 from creating accounts and require parents to provide consent for some teens to join platforms, Florida’s bill would have banned all minors under the age of 15 from creating social media accounts, the strictest ban. Again.

But DeSantis said he was working with state officials on a “different and better” alternative plan, without further details, meaning the state could still impose new limits on children’s access to digital platforms like TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat.

“Protecting children from the harms associated with social media is important, as is defending parents’ rights,” DeSantis job on X. “I anticipate that the new bill will recognize these priorities and will soon be signed into law. »

DeSantis previously expressed concern that he had not struck the right balance between protecting children from potential harm and giving parents more control over their online activity.

In press conferences last week, DeSantis said that while he believes social media is “a net negative for children,” it could still be positive in some cases with parental monitoring, particularly for children. young adolescents who would be subject to the ban under the measure.

“We can’t say that 100 percent of the uses are bad, because that’s not the case,” he said.

The remarks sparked speculation that DeSantis might block the bill. DeSantis and state lawmakers have said in recent days that they are in negotiations to ease his concerns about the bill, which has passed both state legislative chambers and headed to the desk from the governor last week.

Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo (R) said Thursday that to change the bill passed by the state Legislature, DeSantis would have to veto it and work with lawmakers to address his concerns before the end of their legislative session next week.

“I understand they are in a very good position,” Passidomo said of DeSantis and other state lawmakers at a news conference.

If signed, the measure is likely to face constitutional challenges, which have ended similar restrictions on social media in Arkansas and Ohio, among other states. Federal judges largely granted tech industry groups’ requests for preliminary injunctions against the laws, finding they likely violated free speech rights. Judges in these cases have also sometimes questioned the effectiveness of the laws and whether they would address the problems they aim to address when it comes to children’s mental health.

The tech industry and digital rights groups have argued that in addition to depriving children of positive resources online, these measures sneakily force companies to collect vast amounts of data to comply with their data requirements. age verification.

NetChoice, a tech industry group suing to overturn similar laws across the country, appealed to DeSantis having vetoed the measure in a letter last month – foreshadowing a potential conflict if it was signed. The group counts Meta, Amazon and Google among its members. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Federal law requires companies to obtain parental consent to collect data from children under 13 under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. Since its adoption in 1998, many digital platforms have implemented rules prohibiting access to children under 13. DeSantis, however, criticized federal enforcement of the law as too lax.

Some federal lawmakers have proposed bills banning children under 16 from accessing social media or requiring parents to approve its use by teens. But dozens of senators on Capitol Hill have rallied behind a separate proposal to require companies to take steps to prevent harm to children and provide parents with more controls over their activities without excluding children entirely.



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