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Sen. Josh Hawley wants to ban infinite scroll and autoplay videos

A U.S. senator wants to ban autoplay video, infinite scroll, and other features he says contribute to social media addiction.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) introduced the Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology (SMART) Act on Tuesday, according to a press release. It would ban certain features that “exploit” users.

“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.”

The bill would ban infinite scroll and autoplay, though there would be some exceptions for autoplay on music streaming platforms. It would also ban”achievements” that are meant to keep you engaged on a social platform, unless they give you access to improved services.

Hawley also wants to make it harder for companies to trick you into accepting sketchy terms or notifications, requiring them to design “accept” and “decline” boxes that look the same.

The SMART Act would also make social media companies provide an in-app tool that would allow users to track how long they spend on social media and even cap their maximum time on the apps.

Instagram and Facebook already have similar “Manage Your Time” features where users can see how much time they have spent on the app and set daily reminders to put a cap how long they can scroll through their feeds. Digital Detoxes have also become more popular  — they entail refraining entirely from any use of technology for a certain period of time.

Hawley’s press release points to a Global Web Index report showing that people spend much more time on social media than they used to. According to the report, users spend an average of 2 hours a day on social media — a 56% increase from 2012, when users spent an average of 1 hour and 20 minutes a day. 

Big Tech has embraced addiction as a business model. 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

— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) July 30, 2019

Hawley frequently stands against and criticizes big tech companies. In June, he introduced the Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act, which would hold major tech companies like Facebook or YouTube liable for anything posted on their platform. That particular bill focuses on limiting political bias on social network platforms, but could fundamentally change the internet as we know it by opening up Big Tech companies to a massive amount of lawsuits.

Digital Trends reached out to Sen. Hawley’s office to see any of his fellow senators or anyone in the house would sponsor the bill with him, but have yet to hear back. 

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Allison Matyus
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Allison Matyus is a general news reporter at Digital Trends. She covers any and all tech news, including issues around social…
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