Elements of social media that promote addictive tendencies could be barred in the U.S under a potential new bill. The Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology (smart) Act is targeted at certain methods which are designed to fuel addictive behaviours, according to the author of the Act, Senator Josh Hawley.
The new bill will be aimed at “practices that exploit human psychology or brain physiology to substantially impede freedom of choice”. It will be primarily focused on four common practices:
- Endless scrolling – The infinite scroll or auto-refill feature that you get from the Facebook newsfeed or the Twitter timeline which automatically displays more content as the user gets closer to the end of the page.
- Autoplay – When music or videos on sites like Facebook and YouTube are automatically played without the user explicitly choosing to do so. The bill would prevent the autoplaying of adverts – which would actually be a pleasant change – and it would allow exceptions for autoplaying music from a pre-established playlist.
- Badges – Tokens related to interactions with the platform. Mostly these are utilized by Snapchat in the form of Snapstreak badges, which note the duration that a pair of friends have been exchanging daily messages.
- Removing natural stopping points – A blanket term for any site that generates more content than the average user might scroll through in three minutes without the user explicitly calling for that extra content.
“Big Tech has embraced addiction as a business model,” tweeted Hawley. “Their ‘innovation’ isn’t designed to create better products, but to capture attention by using psychological tricks that make it impossible to look away. Time to expect more & better from Silicon Valley.”
“Addictive” video games targeted by U.K parliament
The new bill is being proposed at a time when the United Kingdom parliament is looking into “addictive technologies”, with investigations focused on similar aspects found in Hawley’s bill. The investigation will also cover video games, an area that isn’t included in Hawley’s bill. Makers of Candy Crush told parliament that over nine million people play their game for an average of three to six hours a day.
“It is very difficult to know what excessive is,” Senior Executive of the company, Alex Dale told members of parliament. “We have a fair number of people in their 60s, 70s, and 80s playing Candy Crush,” said Dale. “We do want people to play more. There are going to be people that like to play our games a lot.”