A New Bill Wants to Ban Endless Scrolling, Autoplay and Other ‘Addictive’ Social Media Features

This new bill could help you break your phone addiction

social media addiction ban
It's not your fault you can't stop scrolling
Oleg Magni/Unsplash
By Kayla Kibbe / July 31, 2019 11:56 am

The internet is designed to be addictive, and social media platforms find new ways to keep you glued to your phone every day. A new bill, sponsored by Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, wants to make it harder for tech companies to cash in on your addictive tendencies.

According to The Verge, Hawley’s Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology Act, or the SMART Act, would ban features that are designed to keep users on platforms longer, like YouTube autoplay and endless scrolling, as well as features that encourage repeated use of the platform, like Snapchat’s Snapstreaks.

“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.”

If Hawley’s bill is approved, the Federal Trade Commission and Health and Human Services could create similar rules that would remain in effect for three years, or longer if Congress codified them into law.

The intentionally addictive qualities of many social media features is well documented. “Social media companies deploy a host of tactics designed to manipulate users in ways that undermine their wellbeing,” Josh Golin, executive director of campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, said.

At a hearing last month on the consequences of persuasive tech, Tristan Harris, a former Google design ethicist, likened endless scrolling features to a bottomless wine glass. “If I take the bottom out of this glass and I keep refilling the water or the wine, you won’t know when to stop drinking,” Harris told a committee of senators. “That’s what happens with infinitely scrolling feeds.”

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