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Social media ban for minors less restrictive in second attempt by Florida lawmakers

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Less than a week after Republican Gov Ron DeSantis vetoed a ban on social media for minors, Florida lawmakers sent him a new version on Wednesday that is expected to withstand his criticism.

The House of Representatives passed the bill on a 109-4 vote, completing Republican Speaker Paul Renner’s top priority for the 60-day session that ends Friday. The bill bans social media accounts for children under 14 and requires parental consent for 15- and 16-year-olds.

“We’re not opening Pandora’s box, we’re closing one,” said Republican Rep. Tyler Sirois, who sponsored the bill. “The harm it does to our children is documented, and it is serious.”

DeSantis on Friday vetoed what would have been one of the most sweeping social media bans on minors in the country, but told lawmakers he supported the bill’s concept and was working with Renner on new language.

The original bill would have banned minors under the age of 16 from popular social media platforms, regardless of parental consent.

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Renner said after the vote that the bill will “literally save the lives of children” if it survives legal challenges.

“We know that social media is the main platform for sexual crimes against children,” he said. “We know it is a place where they are bullied online, where their self-image is torn down online. It leads to major mental health problems, contemplation of suicide, acts of self-harm, spikes in anorexia, and the list goes on.

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

Advocates in Florida hope the bill will withstand legal challenges because it would ban social media formats that rely on addictive features like notification alerts and autoplay videos, rather than their content.

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