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DeSantis vetoes social media ban for kids under 16. Florida lawmakers offer new option

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed what would have been one of the most far-reaching social media bans for minors on Friday, and lawmakers are proposing new language that seeks to keep children under under 14 off of addictive platforms.

The bill sent to the governor last week would have banned minors under 16 from popular social media platforms regardless of parental consent. DeSantis had concerns about privacy issues and parental rights, but appears to be on board with a new proposal that would allow 14- and 15-year-olds on social media with parental consent and ban access for younger children.

“The Legislature is about to produce a different, superior bill,” DeSantis said in his veto message. “Protecting children from harms associated with social media is important, as is supporting parents' rights and maintaining the ability of adults to engage in anonymous speech.”

He said he anticipates signing the new bill, which will go before the Senate on Monday, just days before the legislative session ends March 8.

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Lawmakers were expecting the veto and worked with DeSantis on the compromise. The issue is a top priority for Republican House Speaker Paul Renner, who believes social media is causing psychological damage to children.

“My personal view is we ought to go to 18. It is bad. It is poison,” Renner said. “Their business model is addiction that causes harm to children for profit. That's not good.”

But Renner expressed optimism after the veto and said the new proposal is an improvement to the original bill and will have broader public support.

“It's a good product of compromise," he said. “It will have a better chance of getting through the courts.”

Several states have considered similar legislation. In Arkansas, a federal judge blocked enforcement of a law in August that required parental consent for minors to create new social media accounts.

Supporters in Florida hope the bill will withstand legal challenges because it would ban social media formats based on addictive features such as notification alerts and autoplay videos, rather than on the content on their sites.

Brendan Farrington, The Associated Press