Florida’s Youth Social Media Law Faces Potential Legal Challenge

The future of a new law restricting Florida’s young population from using social media is hanging in the balance. Known as HB 3, the legislation could face a legal challenge unless Florida’s Governor, Ron DeSantis, decides to veto it. This is the warning issued by PEN America, an organization that defends and celebrates free expression in the United States through the advancement of literature and human rights.

A Question of Consent and Free Speech

The contentious HB 3 law places restrictions on social media use by those under 16, requiring parental consent for access. PEN America believes this could potentially infringe upon First Amendment rights and is a “blatant act of overreach” aimed at stifling free speech. The bill was passed with a significant majority – only five No votes in the Senate and four in the House. However, the bipartisan support it received does not diminish the potential problems it poses for the state, according to PEN America’s Katie Blankenship.

Potential Constitutional Infringements

Governor DeSantis has previously expressed concerns about this measure, vetoing an earlier version of it, known as HB 1. While HB 3 does offer limited options for parental consent, Ms. Blankenship insists these changes do not rectify the bill’s potential constitutional infringements. She urges the governor to veto the bill to avoid further censoring speech in Florida.

The Unintended Consequences

Blankenship argues that banning minors from using social media outright does not address the genuine dangers they face on these platforms. Instead of focusing on tackling the root issues, HB 3 prevents young people from participating in social media, effectively barring them from expressing constitutionally protected speech.

Moreover, this “blatant act of government overreach” could result in the state facing litigation it cannot defend, subsequently placing the cost of trial on taxpayers. She concludes by emphasizing the need for regulations that minimize harm without violating First Amendment rights.

The final version of the bill, originally intended to require pornography websites to verify users’ age through third-party verification, was integrated with the original social media bill (HB 1) that DeSantis vetoed. Despite the potential for constitutional concerns, Rep. Michele Rayner, who co-introduced the bill, insists that it does not regulate content on social media platforms.

Anticipating potential lawsuits, House Speaker Paul Renner believes the bill will hold up in court and vows that Florida “will not give up the fight to keep kids safe online.”

In conclusion, the fate of Florida’s new social media law for young people remains uncertain. The potential for constitutional infringements, legal challenges, and the cost to taxpayers are all factors that could shape its future. The debate surrounding the law underscores the tension between protecting young people online and preserving free speech rights.

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