Yesterday, Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed into law the state's “Online Protection for Minors” bill (also known as HB3) which prohibits children under the age of 14 from having social media accounts, requires that children ages 14-15 have parental consent in order to have an account, and requires age verification for online access to certain materials deemed harmful to minors

Platform Prohibition

The law puts the burden on social media platforms to bar children from holding accounts, and says that, as of January 1, 2025 (when the law goes into effect), social media platforms must:

  1. Prohibit minors under 14 from holding an account on the platform and prohibit minors 14-15 years old from doing so without their parent/guardian's consent;
  2. Terminate any account held by an account holder under 14 (or a by an account holder ages 14-15 who does not have the consent from their parent/guardian) (including accounts it “treats or categorizes as belonging to an account holder who is likely [of that age] for purposes of targeting content or advertising”);
  3. Allow account holders 15 or under to request to terminate their accounts;
  4. Allow parent/guardians of account holders 15 or under to request to terminate the minor's account; and
  5. Permanently delete all personal information held by the platform relating to the terminated account (unless there are legal requirements to maintain the information).

The law deems any “knowing or reckless violation” an unfair and deceptive trade practice actionable under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act and provides for civil penalties up to $50,000 per violation, plus makes the platform liable to the account holder for up to $10,000 in damages.

Age Verification for Material Harmful to Minors

In addition to the prohibitions for minors, the act also includes a separate section that requires that “commercial entities that knowingly and intentionally publish or distribute” certain material the act deems harmful to minors (described below) on a website or application that contains a substantial portion of material harmful to minors, (i) use age verification to verify that a person attempting to access the material is 18 years or older, and (ii) prevent access to the material by those under 18. The entity must offer anonymous age verification (as defined in the law) and standard age verification options, to be selected by the person trying to access the material. 

Material harmful to minors” is defined as “any material that:

  1. The average person applying contemporary community standards would find, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest; 
  2. Depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way ‘sexual conduct’ as specifically defined in Florida's obscenity law; and 
  3. When taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.”

The law similarly makes a violation of this section subject to a civil penalty up to $50,000 (and provides for punitive damages if it's part of a consistent pattern of conduct), and makes the platform potentially liable to minors for up to $10,000 in damages.

Florida's new law is one of the most restrictive social media prohibitions in the country. It follows a previous iteration of the law that sought to ban usage for children 16 or under which was previously vetoed by DeSantis, and is expected to receive pushback, according to Republican house speaker Paul Renner.