Posted by 30 July 2019
Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) thinks that social media companies addict users, and he wants the federal government to do something about it.
Under a bill introduced by Sen. Hawley, social media companies would be banned from offering more content than a user requested in ways that try to keep the user engaged with the platform. This would end things such as YouTube’s autoplay feature and Facebook’s infinite scroll.
According to Sen. Hawley, these are features designed to addict people and psychologically trick them to use social media more than they want. He says it is proper for government to step in to protect people from these predatory practices. Opponents of this legislation say that companies should be free to innovate, and that the federal government would stifle such innovation with laws like Hawley’s.
This legislation comes in the midst of attacks on technology companies from both liberals and conservatives. Criticisms range from charges of censorship of conservative ideas to exploitation of users. Sen. Hawley has introduced other legislation targeting technology companies in response to these charges.
The enforcement of this legislation would be left to the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general. They could sue technology companies that continue to use what Hawley terms as “addictive” features.
Do social media companies design their products to “addict” users? Do you think that the federal government should ban features that regulators deem to be “addictive”?