DeSantis: Social media ban for minors ‘may create some legal issues’

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said a proposed social media ban on minors under the age of 16 “may create some legal issues” while speaking on Friday at an event in Kissimmee.

DeSantis was asked during the event if he would sign the bill that would require social media platforms to terminate social media accounts of minors under the age of 16.

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“To be determined,” he said.

House Bill 1 would also require social media companies to use a third-party service to verify the ages of its users.

“These devices are a big problem for kids,” he said. “And I think parents — they want some tools to be able to help so that their kids can grow up in the healthiest environment.”

DeSantis said he agrees that social media is causing harm to minors.

“I do think it’s a problem,” he said. “I think social media has been a net negative for our youth. Without question.”

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However, DeSantis cautioned that other states have attempted similar laws, which have ended up challenged in courts.

“I’m sympathetic to, as a parent, what’s going on with our youth,” DeSantis said. “But I also understand that to just say that someone that’s 15 just cannot have it no matter what, even if the parent consents, that may create some legal issues,” he said.

DeSantis said he would work with the speaker on the bill, and said it will likely evolve as it makes its way through the legislature.

“I am concerned about the breadth of it,” DeSantis said. “I want to empower parents, and I want to give parents tools to be able to do this, so I just think you’ve got to be smart about how you do it.”

During debate on Wednesday on the House floor, several representatives spoke against the bill, with some calling it government overreach. Others suggested less restrictive options.

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Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando) said the bill is too broad and worries about children missing out on important digital skills, which some young people have turned into a living. Rep. Ashley Gantt (D-Miami) said the bill goes against parental rights.

Many who spoke in favor of the bill said sexual predators use social media to prey on minors. Rep. Michele Raynor (D-St. Petersburg) said cyberbullying is leading to an increase in young people taking their own lives, asking how many more had to die by suicide before something was done.

The bill passed the Florida House on Wednesday. Similar bills have been introduced in the Senate but have not yet been heard.

If passed the measure would go into law July 1.

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