Lawmaker wants to make social media less addictive

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And you thought all those Facebook messages were secret. Sucker!
A senator wants to outlaw the tricks Facebook and others use to make their sites hard to leave.
Photo: kropekk_pl/Pixabay CC

Facebook’s trick of never letting readers get to the bottom of its homepage would be banned under a law just proposed in the U.S. Senate. The same legislation also would block auto-playing media.

The goal is to make social networking less entrancing.

Close Instagram and go have a life

Sen. Josh Hawley’s (R-Mo.) Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology Act (SMART Act) “prohibit[s] social media companies from using practices that exploit human psychology … to substantially impede freedom of choice.“

“Big tech has embraced a business model of addiction,” Hawley said. “Too much of the ‘innovation’ in this space is designed not to create better products, but to capture more attention by using psychological tricks that make it difficult to look away.”

The proposed law specifically blocks infinitely scrolling web pages. Instead, it would require users to push a button or click an icon to request more content. Preventing the user from ever reaching the bottom of the page is one of those psychological tricks that Hawley mentioned.

The SMART Act also would require Twitter, Instagram and others to regularly notify each user about how long they spend on the platform. And it would force the apps to let users set time limits. The default would be 30 minutes a day. And if someone elects to lengthen that time, it must reset to 30 minutes at the start of every month.

A long way from passage

Hawley appointed himself as a tech industry watchdog. (He also proposed a law designed to get users to spend less money on in-app purchases.)

Both these regulations face considerable resistance from the companies they will affect.

Source: Sen. Josh Hawley