Snapstreaks, YouTube autoplay and endless scrolling all come under fire from a new bill, sponsored by Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), focused on the "addictive" design of the technical industry.
Hawley & # 39; s Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology Act, or the SMART law, would prohibit these features that keep users on platforms longer, along with others, such as Snapstreaks, that encourage the continued use of these products. If approved, the Federal Trade Commission and Health and Human Services could prepare similar rules that would expire after three years, unless Congress codified them into legislation.
"Big tech has embraced a business model of addiction," Hawley said. "Too much of the" innovation "in this space is not meant to make better products, but to attract more attention by using psychological tricks that make it difficult to look away."
Misleading design played a huge role in last week's FTC arrangement with Facebook, and Hawley's bill would make it illegal for technology companies to use darker patterns to manipulate users to opt for services. Accept the & # 39; check boxes & # 39; and & # 39; refuse & # 39; for example, must have the same font, color, and size to help users make better, better-informed choices.
"Social media companies apply a large number of tactics designed to manipulate users in ways that undermine their well-being," said Josh Golin, director of a free childhood commercial campaign.
During a hearing at the end of last month, senators heard from a panel of experts in the field of persuasive tech. Tristan Harris a former Google ethicist in design, explained how platforms make products to increase the amount of time users spend on a site. "If I take the bottom out of this glass and I keep topping up the water or wine, you don't know when to stop drinking," Harris told the committee. "That's what happens with infinitely scrolling feeds."
Some companies, such as Apple, already have tools that allow users to track how much time they spend on different apps and websites. If this law came into force, social media companies would have to implement similar tools that track usage on all devices that a user owns.