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The biggest tech companies have “embraced a business model of addiction,” according to Sen. Josh Hawley, who is proposing a legislative fix that would force online services to stop using features intended to get us hooked on our gadgets, like infinite scroll and auto-play videos.
Hawley’s Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology (SMART) Act would: ban infinite scroll, autoplay, and other addictive features on social media; require social media companies to make accept/decline options for certain features easy to understand; allow people to monitor how much time they spend on certain sites and apps; and allow the FTC and HHS to ban other similar practices.
According to Hawley, a Missouri Republican, “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.”
Drilling down, the bill requires that six months after it’s passed, social media companies implement the ability for users to set time limits on how long they can access a platform each day. The default would be 30 minutes; “if the user elects to increase or remove the time limit, [it] resets the time limit to 30 minutes a day on the first day of every month,” the bill text says.
There’s even a demand for a pop-up to appear every 30 minutes informing the user about their total time spent there.
Apple and Google have already incorporated this type of monitoring into their mobile operating systems with Screen Time and Digital Wellbeing, respectively. Individual apps—including Instagram and Facebook—also let you keep tabs on how much time you spend on them each day.
Screen Time is coming to the Mac with macOS Catalina, and parental control appsabound for those who want to limit how much time their kids spend with their eyeballs on a screen.
Within three months of the bill’s passage, meanwhile, social media companies would be banned from offering features that automatically load and display content “other than music or video content that the user has prompted to play” without that person opting in. If someone reached the end of a block of tweets, for example, they would have to “specifically request (such as by pushing a button or clicking an icon, but not by simply continuing to scroll) that additional content be loaded and displayed.”
The bill would also ban in-app badges or awards—like Snapchat streaks—”if such award does not substantially increase access to new or additional services, content, or functionality.”
It’s unclear how much traction the bill will get. Hawley has been outspoken in his criticism of Silicon Valley lately. In May, he announced plans for a bill that targets loot boxes. In June, he introduced a bill that calls for the top internet companies to undergo external audits to vet whether their content moderation systems are free of political bias.
At a White House Social Media Summit earlier this month, Sen. Hawley railed against Google, Facebook, and Twitter for receiving “special deals from the government,” a reference to Section 230 of Communications Decency Act. “If they want to keep their special deal, they have to quit discriminating against conservatives; it’s that simple,” he said at the time.
This article originally published at PCMag