Senate bill would ban ‘addictive’ social media features

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), a freshman who has emerged as a top Republican critic of major technology companies in Congress, on Tuesday will introduce a bill banning social media companies from building “addictive” features into their products.

Hawley’s Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology Act would make it illegal for social media platforms to hook users by offering them more content than they requested in order to get them to continue on their respective platforms.

The bill takes aim at practices specifically employed by the country’s top social networking sites — YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat.

For example, it would ban YouTube’s “autoplay” feature, which loads up new videos for users automatically; Facebook and Twitter’s “infinite scroll,” which allows users to continue scrolling through their homepages without limit; and Snapchat’s “streaks,” which reward users for continuing to send photos to their friends.

It would also require the companies to build “user-friendly” interfaces, with features allowing users to limit the amount of time they spend on the platform and offering reminders how much time they’ve spent perusing the site.

“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.”

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