New Bill Would Ban Autoplay Videos and Endless Scrolling

A new bill, sponsored by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), targets snapstreaks, YouTube autoplay, and endless scrolling that, the bill alleges, are designed in a way to make services “addictive.” Reader Zorro writes: Hawley’s Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology Act, or the SMART Act, would ban these features that work to keep users on platforms longer, along with others, like Snapstreaks, that incentivize the continued use of these products. If approved, the Federal Trade Commission and Health and Human Services could create similar rules that would expire after three years unless Congress codified them into law. “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.”

Deceptive design played an enormous part in last week’s FTC settlement with Facebook, and Hawley’s bill would make it unlawful for tech companies to use dark patterns to manipulate users into opting into services. For example, “accept” and “decline” checkboxes would need to be the same font, color, and size to help users make better, more informed choices. “Social media companies deploy a host of tactics designed to manipulate users in ways that undermines their wellbeing,” said Josh Golin, executive director of campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood.

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