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Gov. Ron DeSantis has vetoed a bill banning kids under 16 from social media

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis stands behind a podium and speaks to the crowd after being sworn in to begin his second term during an inauguration ceremony on the steps of the Old Capitol on Jan. 3, 2023, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Lynne Sladky
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to the crowd after being sworn in to begin his second term during an inauguration ceremony outside the Old Capitol on Jan. 3, 2023, in Tallahassee, Fla.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has vetoed a controversial bill that would have banned children under 16 from social media. The move comes as lawmakers have unveiled an alternate proposal.

The legislation, House Speaker Paul Renner’s main policy priority this session, was approved by a bi-partisan coalition of lawmakers last week. DeSantis previously signaled he would oppose the bill, citing concerns that the legislation failed to give parents the ability to choose whether to give their children social media access.

“You got to strike that proper balance when you are looking at these things between policy that is helping parents get to where they want to go versus policy that might be outright overruling parents,” DeSantis said during a press conference last week.

But hope is not lost for some version of the bill to be passed this session. Just hours before DeSantis issued his veto, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo said on the Senate floor that her chamber will consider a related bill, HB 3.

Under a proposed amendment to that legislation unveiled Friday afternoon, minors under 14 cannot have social media accounts, but 14-15 year-olds can, with parental consent. In addition, the language says any commercial entity where the majority of its content is known to be harmful to minors would have to have some sort of age verification mechanism.

“Again, these are issues that we have discussed at length in senate committees over the last several weeks. And I look forward to further discussion on the floor next week,” Passidomo said.

Before DeSantis vetoed the bill, different factions have been working to influence public opinion. Last week, Mom’s for Liberty co-founder and DeSantis ally Tiffany Justice voiced dissatisfaction with the bill on her podcast.

“I applaud the effort and the willingness to take on such a big issue because we all are concerned,” she said. “I will say as a mom of four, some of my kids do better with these types of interactions than the other, but I really don’t know if I want the government telling me you know when my kid wants to start a business and do online advertising or something that somehow he shouldn’t be allowed to do that.”

Political committees on both sides of the issue have also launched competing polling and social media advertisement campaigns. A group called the Citizen Awareness Project paid for a poll that found most Floridians oppose the bill.

Another group, the PAC Florida Right Direction, commissioned a poll that found most Floridians support the bill. That PAC has been mostly funded in the past by Renner and other influential Republicans in the legislature who support the measure.

Tristan Wood is a senior producer and host with WFSU Public Media. A South Florida native and University of Florida graduate, he focuses on state government in the Sunshine State and local panhandle political happenings.