Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley introduced legislation Monday that would ban autoplay and endless scrolling on social media in an effort to curb what he called addiction.
The Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology (SMART) Act would also require social media companies to restrict users to 30 minutes per day unless the user manually changes the time limit. The legislation would also require platforms to prompt users every 30 minutes to consent to additional time.
“Big tech has embraced a business model of addiction,” Hawley said in a statement. “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,” he continued.
The bill would require social media sites and apps to present users with “accept” and “decline” boxes so they can consent to more scrolling or viewing. These boxes would appear as the same size and font on every app and website.
The bill would also give the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Health and Human Services authority to ban “similar practices” for three years.
Social media users spend two hours and eight minutes a day, on average, looking at their social media accounts, which is up from one hour and 22 minutes — a 56% increase — since 2012, the statement notes.
“Social media companies deploy a host of tactics designed to manipulate users in ways that undermines their wellbeing,” Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood Executive Director Josh Golin said in a statement.
“We commend Senator Hawley for introducing legislation that would prohibit some of the most exploitative tactics, including those frequently deployed on children and teens,” the statement continued.
Hawley has introduced various bills in an effort to crack down on Big Tech, ranging in issues from the online privacy of children to the ways video games are designed.
In June, the Missouri senator introduced the Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act — an amendment to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
Section 230 exempts Big Tech from publisher liability laws, which hold newspaper and book publishers accountable for the content allowed in their pages, in exchange for providing forums without political censorship and required the FTC to audit such companies.
“This is a digital drug,” Hawley wrote in a May op-ed. “And the addiction is the point.”
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