Since his election in 2018, U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., has developed a national reputation for his campaign against big tech companies.
That campaign continued Tuesday when he announced a new bill that would ban intentionally “addictive” features in social media apps and websites, a news release from Hawley’s office said.
Hawley’s new legislation, the Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology Act, would limit “addictive” social media features such as infinite scrolling and video autoplay, force companies to make consumer consent more clear and require social media apps to include tools to track time spent and self-imposed time limits.
The junior senator criticized tech companies’ “business model of addiction” and said the SMART Act would “encourage true innovation” by those companies.
Past research and reporting back up Hawley’s accusation of deliberate psychological tactics by social media companies.
Aza Raskin, the engineer who designed infinite scroll in 2006, spoke to the BBC in July 2018 about the abilities of such features to keep people on their apps for “far longer than necessary.”
“Behind every screen on your phone, there are generally like literally a thousand engineers that have worked on this thing to try to make it maximally addicting,” he told BBC.
Excessive social media use has not been officially recognized as a disorder by either the World Health Organization or the DSM-5, which is the primary tool the American Psychiatric Association uses to describe and track mental health disorders.
Hawley’s anti-big tech campaign has found him questioning a Google executive on consumer privacy, introducing legislation to remove companies’ immunity from user-posted content and attacking “pay-to-win” apps and games such as Candy Crush.