(TALLAHASSEE) – Today, a coalition of eight non-partisan organizations delivered a letter to the Florida Legislature condemning House Bill 3 (HB 3). The newly amended bill seeks to bar minors from social media sites, requiring parental consent for users “14 or 15 years of age,” while creating confusing age verification requirements that infringe on all Floridians’ right to privacy.

The letter, signed by PEN America, Chamber of Progress, PRISM, the First Amendment Foundation, ACLU of Florida, the Trevor Project, NetChoice, and LGBT Tech, urges lawmakers to vote against HB 3. Among the arguments against the bill, the letter states that the bill is too vague and broad, failing to achieve the state’s interest in protecting minors.

The Florida Senate passed HB 3 this morning. The bill now heads to the Florida House of Representatives before reaching the Governor’s desk for his signature.

“The restrictions in HB 3 continue to be just as broad and vague as HB 1. Outright banning minors from social media sites does not address the potential harm they may encounter on social media sites but instead prohibits them from sharing and engaging in constitutionally protected speech,” said Katie Blankenship, director of PEN America Florida. “We know social media sites can present significant risks to minors, but the state’s response to such risks should be tailored to minimize harm, not passing measures that violate Floridans’ constitutional rights.”

According to the letter, HB 3 as written includes multiple constitutional violations. Signatories noted that the government should not place itself in a position to defend unwinnable litigation.

Attention turned to HB 3 after Governor DeSantis vetoed HB 1 last week, which was immediately followed by an amended clause added to HB 3 that included minor differences to HB 1. While the new amendment included a parental consent option that allows parents to decide whether their 14 or 15-year-old children may maintain social media accounts, advocates stated that the outright ban of minors under 14 from social media sites infringes upon their First Amendment rights and goes too far.

The organizations stated that the bill deprives Florida’s youth of critical resources, support networks, and personal and academic growth. The organizations stressed that the bill represents actual harm for youth at risk who frequently rely on social media sites to ask for help, create connections, and find resources and support online when experiencing dangerous or abusive home environments.

“If the Florida House continues in the same trend as the Senate, we urge Governor DeSantis to veto HB 3,” added Blankenship. “This bill does nothing to protect our youth or help the issue with extreme censorship in Florida.”

Kara Gross, legislative director of the ACLU of Florida, said: “The age-verification requirements in HB 3 place barriers between users, whether they’re adults or minors, and their constitutional right to speak online. Age verification requirements blatantly chill the speech and threaten the privacy of adults by requiring them to surrender their anonymity to engage in constitutionally protected speech. 

“Lawmakers shouldn’t be controlling what ideas and information parents can allow their children to access. This is government overreach. The internet, including social media platforms, contains vast amounts of constitutionally protected speech for both adults and minors. Blanket bans infringe upon our constitutional rights.”

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], (201) 247-5057