(TALLAHASSEE) — PEN America warned today that the passage of House Bill 3 (HB 3) by the Florida Legislature this week very likely violates the First Amendment and exposes the state to expensive litigation. The bill requires parental consent for users “14 or 15 years of age” to create an account on social media sites, while including confusing age verification requirements that infringe on all Floridians’ right to privacy.

Lawmakers voted in favor of the bill, passing in the Senate with a 30-5 vote and in the House with a 109-4 vote. Advocates have repeatedly stated the overly broad and vague language in the bill fails to achieve the state’s interests in protecting minors and instead sweeps too broadly into constitutional rights of free speech.

The bill now heads to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

In response, Katie Blankenship, director of PEN America Florida, said: “Governor DeSantis has voiced concerns about this measure in the past, vetoing the first version of this bill, HB1. The changes to HB3, providing limited parental consent options, do not cure the bill’s constitutional infringements. We urge the governor to veto the bill and steer clear of further censoring speech in our state.

Prohibiting minors from using social media sites entirely fails to tackle the dangers they face on these platforms. Rather than focusing on the root issues of social media, HB 3 prevents young people from participating in it, barring their expression of constitutionally protected speech.

The Constitution states that lawmakers do not have the authority to dictate the ideas and information that parents may choose to allow their families to access. . This bill is a blatant act of government overreach, and we should not be surprised when the state is met with litigation that it will not be able to defend, placing the cost of trial on the backs of Florida taxpayers.” 

She added: “We understand that social media sites present clear harms to our youth, but our government can and must create regulations that minimize harm and do not violate our First Amendment rights. Floridians do not need more censorship. If we truly care about our youth, we must empower them to learn and grow into community leaders, not stifle their development and chill their speech. 

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