World News

US state bans children under 14 from having social media accounts

Photo caption: Jocelyn Avelica (C) reacts while speaking wth her father by phone as sisters Fatima (R) and Yuleni (L) listen nearby on March 3, 2017 on campus after school in Los Angeles, California. A crying schoolgirl’s videotape of her undocumented father being arrested by federal agents in the Los Angeles area this week while taking his children to school has sparked emotion and outrage. Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez, a 48-year-old Mexican who has lived in the United States for some 20 years, was arrested on Tuesday by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) near his children’s school located in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. / AFP PHOTO / Frederic J. Brown

Florida State Governor, Ron DeSantis signed a bill on Monday that will prohibit children younger than 14 from joining social media in the state, reports NBC News.
According to the report, those who are 14 or 15 will need a parent’s consent before they join a platform.
The bill, HB3, also directs social media companies to delete the existing accounts of those who are under 14.
Companies that fail to do so could be sued on behalf of the child who creates an account on the platform. The minor could be awarded up to $10,000 in damages, according to the bill.
Companies found to be in violation of the law would also be liable for up to $50,000 per violation, as well as attorney’s fees and court costs.
“Ultimately, [we’re] trying to help parents navigate this very difficult terrain that we have now with raising kids, and so I appreciate the work that’s been put in,” DeSantis said in remarks during the bill-signing ceremony.
DeSantis previously vetoed a more restrictive version of the bill that would have banned social media accounts for kids under 16. That bill also required Florida residents to submit an ID or other identifying materials in order to join social media.
HB3, which is slated to take effect in January 2025, comes as efforts to regulate social media continue to ramp up across the U.S. amid concerns from some parents that the platforms don’t do enough to keep their kids safe online.
In December, more than 200 organisations sent a letter urging Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to schedule a vote on the Kids Online Safety Act, or KOSA, which seeks to create liability, or a “duty of care,” for apps and online platforms that recommend content to minors that can negatively affect their mental health.
In January, lawmakers grilled CEOs from TikTok, X and Meta about online child safety. The tech executives reaffirmed their commitment to child safety, and pointed to various tools they offer as examples of how they are proactive about preventing exploitation online.
Florida House Speaker Paul Renner and other advocates of the new law argue that social media use can harm children’s mental health and can lead to sexual predators communicating with minors.
“None of us can afford to be on the sidelines when it comes to social media,” Renner said in remarks made at the bill signing.
Several states that have enacted similar laws to limit teen social media — including Ohio and Arkansas — have been challenged by NetChoice LLC, a coalition of social media platforms whose members include Meta, Google and X, among others.
Florida’s law is also expected to face legal challenges over claims that it violates the First Amendment.
“We’re disappointed to see Gov. DeSantis sign onto this route,” Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel for NetChoice, said in an email statement, calling the law “unconstitutional.”
“There are better ways to keep Floridians, their families and their data safe and secure online without violating their freedoms.”
Both DeSantis and Renner alluded in their remarks to the potential legal hurdles ahead.
“You will not find a line in this bill that addresses good speech or bad speech because that would violate the First Amendment,” Renner said.
“We’ve not addressed that at all. What we have addressed is the addictive features that are at the heart of why children stay on these platforms for hours and hours on end.”
He specifically called out NetChoice, saying, “We’re going to beat them, and we’re never ever going to stop.”
DeSantis argued the bill is constitutionally sound.
“Any time I see a bill, if I don’t think it’s constitutional, I veto it,” he said. He described the bill as “a fair application of the law and Constitution.”

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