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Hawley Introduces Bill to Ban ‘Addictive’ Social Media Features

Senator Josh Hawley in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., July 11, 2019 (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) will introduce legislation on Tuesday that would ban the “addictive” features of various social media platforms, which the freshman lawmaker believes have weaponized human psychology in service of an attention-for-profit model.

The Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology Act would ban various popular features that are employed by every major social media platform to deprive users of the opportunity to interrupt their use of the product.

“Big tech has embraced a business model of addiction. 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. This legislation will put an end to that and encourage true innovation by tech companies,” Hawley said in a statement.

The targeted features include Twitter’s “infinite scroll,” which allows users to scroll through new information endlessly without reloading the page; Youtube’s “Autoplay,” which loads a new video as soon as another ends; and Snapchat’s “Streaks,” which incentivizes users to maintain an unbroken string of messages with another user.

The bill would also require that social media platforms allow users to easily opt out of using a certain feature, rather than pushing them toward consenting by making that option more visually appealing or accessible on the platform. The platforms would also be required to allow users to track their time spent using the product.

Since taking office in January, Hawley has quickly established himself as the foremost Republican critic of big tech, introducing a spate of bills designed to protect consumer data and prevent political censorship on social media platforms.

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