DeSantis will review social media ban for minors after staff raises First Amendment concerns

ORLANDO, Fla. — Gov. DeSantis said he will take time over the weekend to review a bill that could be the nation’s most restrictive ban on social media use for minors.


It would keep children under 16 off of popular platforms regardless of parental approval.

Despite the proposal passing both the House and Senate, there are still major concerns over the bill’s constitutionality.

States like Arkansas and Ohio already have had less restrictive youth social media laws blocked by the courts.

Florida legislative staff raised several concerns in an analysis published last Friday. It listed two pages of reasons why the bill may violate children’s First Amendment rights.

Read: Florida Senate passes social media ban for minors

Former Republican State Senator Jeff Brandes says even with last-minute changes, the bill is unconstitutional.

“There aren’t age limits in the Florida constitution or U.S. Constitution; you don’t get rights to free speech, rights to assembly or rights to association at 16. That’s not how this works. You’re born with those rights,” Brandes said.

Shoshana Weissman is a social media policy expert with nonpartisan think tank “R Street Institute.”

She notes that courts have said states can restrict content if it protects the “physical and psychological well-being” of a minor.

Video: Social media ban vote sets up possible DeSantis veto

However, she says this proposal is a broad ban. The proposal doesn’t mention a specific platform but states it targets social media sites that have “addictive features”-- like infinite scrolling, push notifications and videos that play without the user clicking on a play button.

“If you’re restricting their access really narrowly and are only to harmful content that could possibly work. But this is everything most speech on social media is First Amendment protected,” Weissman said, speaking about how the proposed ban is unconstitutional.

Also, the courts have upheld that any restrictions must be “content-neutral.”

Read: Lawmakers discuss possible changes to Florida bill to ban anyone under 16 from social media

States can’t pick and choose what content or platforms are restricted.

Weissman says this proposal is the opposite of content neutrality.

“So okay, you know, we’re not going to worry about artistic networks, like maybe Flickr, where you showcase your work. But if you showcase your work on Twitter, that doesn’t matter. You know, it’s very content-based and the Supreme Court won’t like that,” Weissman said, giving an example.

The other concern is anonymity. Weissman says everyone has the right to anonymity while using social media, but the age verification of the proposal won’t allow that.

In a tweet Thursday, Florida House Speaker Paul Renner said lawmakers addressed constitutional concerns by “narrowly focusing the scope of the bill on addictive features, added enhanced anonymity provisions to the age verification process to protect user data, and incorporated meaningful penalties to hold Big Tech accountable,” Renner said in a post on X.

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