Renner, DeSantis near deal on Florida's social media bill, Senate president says
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With a Friday deadline looming, House Speaker Paul Renner said Wednesday that he and Gov. Ron DeSantis are trying to work out differences on a bill aimed at keeping children under age 16 off social-media platforms.

“We’re looking at alternatives and what we can do together,” Renner told reporters. “So we’re still working together.”

When pressed about possible alternatives, Renner replied, “I don’t have anything further to say about it other than we’re going to keep talking. I really don’t have anything to announce yet.”

The House and Senate overwhelmingly passed the bill (HB 1), which Renner, R-Palm Coast, has made a priority of this year’s legislative session. But DeSantis has raised questions about the measure’s constitutionality and whether it would infringe on parental rights.

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Among other things, the bill would prevent children under 16 from creating accounts on at least some social media platforms; require platforms to terminate existing accounts that they know or have “reason to believe” are held by minors younger than 16; and allow parents to request that minors’ accounts be terminated.

Speculation has swirled in the Capitol about DeSantis possibly vetoing the bill. That would create an unusual dynamic, as DeSantis and Renner have been political allies.

The Legislature sent the bill to DeSantis last week, creating a Friday deadline for the governor to sign the bill, veto it or let it become law without his signature. Renner met with DeSantis on Monday in the governor’s office.

Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, said Thursday that Renner and DeSantis were in a “really good spot” on an agreement.

Passidomo told reporters that DeSantis would likely veto the bill, and then lawmakers would amend another social media bill with changes that DeSantis would accept.

“They’re crafting some language that they feel will pass constitutional muster,” Passidomo said.

Renner and other supporters of his bill say “addictive” social media harms the mental health of children and can be used by sexual predators to communicate with minors.

The bill includes criteria for determining which platforms would be subject to the restrictions. The criteria would include issues related to algorithms, “addictive features” and allowing users to view the content or activities of other users.

Also, it would require platforms to use age verification before accounts are created, with the verifications also affecting adults.

“It (social media) is a major existential threat to this generation and the coming generations,” Renner said Wednesday.

But critics have argued that parents should be able to decide whether children use social media. They have also cited court decisions that have blocked similar social-media laws in other states.

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, a national group known as FIRE, released a statement Wednesday urging DeSantis to veto the bill.

“The courts have affirmed time and again that minors have strong First Amendment rights of their own, and young Floridians statewide use social media to communicate with friends and family, keep up with current events, and learn more about their world,” the group’s statement said. “HB 1′s sweeping prohibition on protected speech will not withstand constitutional scrutiny.”

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