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Op-Ed: Gov. DeSantis’ social media ban hurts parents and minors

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The recent surge of bills attempting to rein in social media outrage in Florida and across America has sparked debate over the role of government in regulating them.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed an initial bill banning minors on social media. In his veto message, he said, “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.”

We should empower parents to determine what’s best for their children on social media, or otherwise. This will work better than putting politicians and government bureaucrats in charge, which is what these types of bills do. These bills are likely unconstitutional, as they violate the First Amendment.

There was hope that Gov. DeSantis would empower parents over bureaucrats. But, as politicians often do, he changed his tune and signed a slightly watered-down version of the vetoed bill but still one of the most restrictive bills for minors on social media in the country. The signed bill requires age verification for everyone to be on social media and bans those under 14 years old while giving parental approval for minors 14 and 15 years old.

This is a direct violation of the supposed goal of empowering parents through school choice.

DeSantis and others have praised and advanced parental empowerment with universal school choice but now want to take parenting of kids out of their hands regarding what they do online. How is this consistent? It’s not, and unfortunately, too many on the right are falling into this inconsistency trap.

Parents are best positioned to understand their children’s needs and guide their online activities accordingly. By assisting parents with the tools and information they need to navigate the digital landscape, such as educating kids and parents at schools and online, we can ensure that children are exposed to age-appropriate content and protected from potential harm.

A primary concern with many of the proposed social media bills is the potential for government overreach and censorship. Granting politicians and bureaucrats the authority to regulate speech on online platforms sets a dangerous precedent and threatens the principles of free expression. Instead of entrusting government officials with such powers, we should encourage parents to make informed decisions about their children’s online activity.

Furthermore, excessive government regulation of social media stifles innovation and entrepreneurship in the digital space, especially small businesses.

By imposing burdensome restrictions on online platforms, we risk hindering the development of new technologies and services that could benefit families. A more pragmatic approach fosters competition in the marketplace, allowing consumers to choose the platforms that best align with their values and preferences.

These regulations would hurt many start-up firms as they won’t have the resources to hire as many lawyers to jump through the hoops imposed on them that larger, incumbent companies can afford. They would also need to pay third-party verification systems that cost thousands of dollars, making it more challenging to start a business, as noted in a recent report by Engine.

Gov. DeSantis has been a vocal advocate for parental empowerment, emphasizing the importance of transparency and accountability from social media companies. His initial pushback of government overreach of social media should be championed rather than resorting to bans for questionable reasons, as social media isn’t the culprit for bad parenting or bad legislation.

In light of ongoing NetChoice cases at the Supreme Court, where the organization has fought against state-level regulations deemed infringing on free speech and commerce, we should uphold free speech in the digital age. By joining parents in advocating for greater transparency and accountability by social media companies where applicable, we can champion the interests of Americans and assert state sovereignty.

Rather than relying on government mandates and regulations, we should foster a culture of parental responsibility and provide families with the resources they need to navigate the digital landscape safely.

If politicians and bureaucrats take over these responsibilities, it will lead to less incentive for parents to be engaged with their kids and what they’re doing online. This would be a terrible path forward as the government has already made bad situations worse regarding safety-net handouts, a monopoly government school system, and more.

Let’s stick with a proven approach that supports parents and social media providers rather than a top-down, likely unconstitutional one.

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