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Florida Governor DeSantis signs bill that regulates social media use among minors

Governor DeSantis vetoed the earlier proposal, and instead advocated for a version that allows parental discretion for minors aged 14 and 15.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Monday signed a bill imposing strict regulations on social media usage for individuals under 16 years of age. This law is set to take effect on January 1, 2025 and marks a major step in the ongoing efforts to protect children from the potential harms of social media.

Under the new legislation, social media platforms are required to terminate accounts held by children under the age of 14. Failing to this, the companies could face lawsuits on behalf of the minor who makes an account on their platform. These lawsuits could result in the companies having to pay damages of up to $10,000 to the minor, NBC News reported. The social media companies who are found violating the law, would further be liable to pay up to $50,000 per violation, along with other costs like attorney’s fees and court costs, the report added.

For minors aged 14 and 15, parental consent is a required to maintain or create social media accounts. The law mandates social media companies to employ third-party verification systems to ensure compliance with these age restrictions.

It is noteworthy that the initial version of the bill sought to completely prohibit social media access for those under 16 years of age. However, Governor DeSantis vetoed this proposal, advocating instead for a version that allows parental discretion for minors aged 14 and 15.

Critics, including major tech companies like Meta, reportedly argue that the legislation infringes on First Amendment rights and imposes undue restrictions on parental decision-making. They also raise concerns about the implications for data privacy and the feasibility of implementing age verification processes.

In contrast, supporters assert that the law is a necessary intervention to protect minors from the documented risks of excessive social media use, such as anxiety, depression, and exposure to online predators. Meanwhile, Florida’s legislation joins a growing trend of states taking legislative action to address the impact of digital technologies on minors, with Utah, Arkansas, Louisiana, Ohio, and Texas enacting similar laws.

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