DeSantis Signs Major Social Media Restrictions Into Law

A measure that requires parental approval for social media users under 16 years old and prohibits its access for users under 14 years old was signed into law by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida.

Legal challenges to the new law are likely to come from the IT industry and, maybe, some freedom advocates. Social media accounts cannot be created by anyone under the age of 14, and permission from a parent or guardian is required for any user between the ages of 15 and 16. The new law, which will go into effect on January 1st, 2025, was one of Republican Speaker Paul Renner’s primary legislative priorities.

The measure has been discussed in other states; however, a federal court in Arkansas prevented a law that would have mandated parental consent for minors to create social media accounts. Many Floridians are crossing their fingers that the law will pass despite legal challenges since it would ban social media formats defined by their addictive qualities, such as alert notifications and auto-play movies, rather than the material itself.

In a previous statement, DeSantis noted that the “Stop Woke Act,” a statute he had signed into law two years ago, would be challenged on First Amendment grounds. He also mentioned that an appeals court presided over by Republican nominees had just reversed the law. He firmly believes that parents should be free to make decisions for their children and that the government should stay out of their personal lives, including social media.

The measure was passed by both houses of Congress with resounding approval, thanks to the bipartisan backing of many Democrats and the vast majority of Republicans. Opponents argue that it goes against the free speech guarantees in the First Amendment and that parental authority, not the state, should dictate what children of all ages can and cannot do online.

Meta, the parent business of Facebook and Instagram, opposed the bill, arguing that it would restrict parental control and generate data privacy issues due to the personal information users would be required to submit to age. According to Meta, the federal government should mandate that app shops get parental consent before allowing minors to download their apps.

Social media sites that encourage “infinite scrolling,” show reaction metrics like likes, feature auto-play videos, have live-streaming and push notifications, and are not explicitly named by the bill are its targets.

However, websites and apps whose primary function is email, messaging, or texting between a particular sender and recipient are exempt. The bill authorizes parents to sue social media firms in civil court if the corporations do not erase users’ personal information from deactivated accounts.