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New Florida bill lets parents sue social media companies for $10K for failing to remove the account of a child under 14

12-year-old boy using social media
The new bill is set to go into effect in January 2025, but is expected to face legal challenges.Matt Cardy/Getty
  • Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a Florida bill prohibiting children under 14 from joining social media.

  • Parents can sue social media companies for $10k for not promptly deleting an account of a child under 14.

  • Similar bills signed in other states have faced constitutional challenges from NetChoice LLC.

A new Florida bill could open the floodgates for parents to sue for up to $10,000 if social media companies fail to remove flagged accounts of their underage children in a timely manner.

The new bill, HB3, was signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday. It prohibits children under 14 from being on social media. Children ages 14 and 15 need their parent's consent to join the platform.

The Florida Gov. argued pedophiles are taking advantage of children on the apps. The Speaker of the Florida House, Paul Renner, echoed those concerns and also brought up mental health concerns associated with the platforms.

"You can have a kid in the house safe seemingly and then you have predators that can get right in there into your own home," DeSantis said at the bill signing ceremony. "You can be doing everything right, but they know how to manipulate these different platforms."

The bill requires social media companies to delete already existing accounts that belong to children under 14, by the child's request within five business days, or a parent's request within 10 business days. For 14 or 15-year-old children, the account must be confirmed by a parent. If it isn't, the user has 90 days to file a dispute before being terminated.

Companies that allow minors access after being aware of their age could be responsible for up to $50,000 in penalties or fines per violation if the charges are found to be a "consistent pattern of knowing or reckless conduct."

Parents can also sue companies on behalf of their child if the platform doesn't comply and take down the account, potentially receiving up to $10,000 in damages.

Privacy vs. protection

While the legislation is set to go into place by January 2025, Stacey Lee, a professor of law & ethics at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School said the bill will likely face "significant legal obstacles" related to First Amendment issues.

Lee said regulating social media has become a "hot-button political issue," but these efforts are consistently met with constitutional hurdles, which DeSantis has acknowledged.

The bill's effectiveness in preventing minors from accessing social media also remains questionable, Lee said.

"Regulating the digital landscape for minors without infringing on these principles presents a formidable challenge calling for thoughtful consideration and innovative solutions," Lee said.

Other states with similar bills like California, Utah, Ohio, and Arkansas, have been challenged by tech coalition NetChoice LLC for signing similar laws. Both California and Arkansas received preliminary injunctions and Ohio received a temporary restraining order on its social media law, according to spokesperson Krista Chavez. The case in Utah hasn't had its hearing yet.

NetChoice is a major coalition of social media platforms opposing these restrictions and it includes TikTok, Meta, Google, and X among others. NetChoice has cited privacy concerns in its reasoning against these kinds of laws.

Chavez said NetChoice has repeatedly expressed constitutional concerns with HB3 in public statements, testimony, and in a letter to Gov. DeSantis about the bill.

NetChoice Vice President & General Counsel Carl Szabo referred to HB3 as a "bad policy" in a statement shared with BI.

Szabo said the bill poses a data risk because it forces users to hand over sensitive personal information to websites or lose their access to information channels. It also infringes on First Amendment rights to share and access online speech, he said.

"We're disappointed to see Gov. DeSantis sign onto this route," Szabo said in the statement. "There are better ways to keep Floridians, their families, and their data safe and secure online without violating their freedoms."

Another attempt at regulating social media

DeSantis voted against a more restrictive version of the bill that proposed banning social media for children under 16 and required proof of ID to join social media.

The governor said in a post on X, formerly Twitter, that he "vetoed HB 1 because the Legislature is about to produce a different, superior bill."

It's not the first time the Florida governor has focused his legislation on protecting children.

DeSantis passed a bill last year that restricted children's use of cellphones in the classroom.

"Being buried in those devices all day is not the best way to grow up," DeSantis said at the signing ceremony. "It's not the best way to get a good education."

The latest bill follows a series of legislative attempts from the government to place restrictions on social media.

An attempt to ban or force a sale of TikTok recently passed the House on March 13 with 352 votes in favor of the bill. It will next be voted on by the Senate, at which point, if it passes, it will end up on the desk of President Joe Biden — who has said he'd sign it.

Read the original article on Business Insider