News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE – Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signature on perhaps the highest-profile bill of the 2024 legislative session means many teens in Florida could be prohibited from opening social media accounts starting next year — but legal challenges are sure to follow.

Lawmakers this month overwhelmingly passed the bill (HB 3), fulfilling a major priority of House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast. DeSantis signed the measure Monday.
The bill, in part, seeks to prevent children under age 16 from opening social-media accounts on at least some platforms — though it would allow parents to give consent for 14- and 15-year-olds to have accounts. Children under 14 could not open accounts.
DeSantis in the waning days of the session vetoed an earlier version of the bill that did not include the parental opt-in provision. The previous version also would have required age-verification for platforms, which would have affected adults creating accounts.
Despite the changes, the House speaker said the new law stands to protect youths from what he has described as addictive features and other aspects of social-media that he argues are harmful to mental health. Renner, who was among many to predict legal challenges to the measure, said he expects it to withstand First Amendment challenges.
“You will not find a line in this bill that addresses good speech or bad speech because that would violate the First Amendment. We’ve not addressed that at all,” Renner, an attorney, said. “What we have addressed is the addictive features that are at the heart of why children stay on these platforms for hours and hours on end.”
The industry group NetChoice this month urged DeSantis to veto the revamped measure, arguing it would violate First Amendment rights. Spokeswoman Krista Chavez said in an email Monday that the group does not publicly discuss legal strategy, but it quickly recirculated the veto request and earlier statements about the constitutionality of the bill.
“An unconstitutional law will protect exactly zero Floridians,” Carl Szabo, NetChoice’s vice president and general counsel,” said in a statement. “HB 3 is also bad policy because of the data collection on Floridians by online services it will in effect require. This will put their private data at risk of breach.”
Meanwhile, the state’s top attorney signaled that she will be ready to rumble when and if the measure is challenged in court.
“You better believe, I am going to fight like hell to uphold this in court,” Attorney General Ashley Moody said during Monday’s bill-signing event in Jacksonville.
The bill is slated to take effect Jan. 1.


This week brought another settlement between DeSantis’ administration and a courtroom foe, leading to the governor declaring victory.
Walt Disney Parks and Resorts and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District reached a legal settlement Wednesday that ended an Orange County circuit-court lawsuit. The lawsuit came amid a feud between DeSantis and the entertainment giant over its opposition to a 2022 state law that restricted instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools.
Walt Disney World Resort President Jeff Vahle said in a prepared statement that the company was “pleased to put an end to all litigation pending in state court.”
The legal settlement includes nullifying controversial development agreements that the entertainment giant entered with the former Reedy Creek Improvement District, which had close ties to Disney. The Legislature and DeSantis replaced the district with the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District last year.
The settlement also lifts changes imposed by the new oversight board. District plans now revert to 2020 conditions as the two sides work on a new development agreement.
Appearing at a bill signing Thursday in Fort Lauderdale, DeSantis chalked it up as a win.
“Yesterday’s agreement acknowledges that those covenants and those 11th-hour agreements, done between the old district and the company, are null and void,” DeSantis declared.
Initially set up in the 1960s, the district provides government services for a swath of Central Florida that includes Disney properties.
The agreement also includes language that allows Disney to hold off on advancing its appeal of a federal lawsuit “pending negotiations among other matters of a new development agreement between Disney and the district.”
Disney’s federal case alleged state officials unconstitutionally retaliated against the company over its opposition to the education law, which supporters formally named the “Parental Rights in Education” measure but opponents labeled “don’t say gay.” The company’s appeal is pending at the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.


Two major Florida Supreme Court decisions didn’t come down this week as many expected, but the court on Thursday evening issued an announcement that the opinions are likely to be published next week — on the deadline that they’re due.
Justices appear poised Monday afternoon to issue rulings about whether proposed constitutional amendments that seek to ensure abortion rights and allow recreational marijuana will go on the November ballot.
Political committees behind the two proposed amendments have submitted enough petition signatures to reach the ballot. But the Supreme Court plays a key role because it must decide whether the wording of initiatives’ ballot titles and summaries — the parts that voters see when they go to the polls — meet legal tests. Those tests include whether the wording is clear and whether it deals with only single subjects.
The court Thursday evening issued a statement that said it will release “out-of-calendar” opinions at 4 p.m. Monday. The court typically releases opinions each Thursday morning, with “out-of-calendar” opinions released other times.

STORY OF THE WEEK: With the state preparing for a legal challenge from the tech industry, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed a high-profile bill aimed at keeping children off social-media platforms.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “We have ordinances that we passed we spent a lot of money on and did a lot of work on. This seems to wipe those out in favor of a bureaucratic agency.” — Melbourne Beach Mayor Alison Dennington, who opposes a bill (SB 280) that seeks to regulate vacation rentals at the state level.