A proposed new bill in the US could ban videos that autoplay on YouTube, Snapstreaks and Facebook’s infinite newsfeed.
The Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology (Smart) Act targets features and techniques that the bill’s author, Republican Senator Josh Hawley, says are designed to deepen and encourage addictive behaviour.
The bill is aimed at “practices that exploit human psychology or brain physiology to substantially impede freedom of choice” and expressly prohibits four types of practices:
- Infinite scrolling, such as on Twitter and Facebook, that occurs without the user requesting more content.
- Lack of natural stopping points when a platform automatically loads and displays additional content.
- Autoplaying videos or music, such as on YouTube, Facebook and TikTok, without receiving a prompt from the user.
- Providing badges and awards based on the length of engagement on certain activities on a platform, such as how long friends have exchanged messages each day.
In a tweet announcing the proposed bill, Hawley accused Silicon Valley’s large tech firms of basing their business model on addiction, making it impossible for users to stop using their platforms.
The proposed bill comes while the UK parliament is investigating “addictive technologies”, with an examination that looks at many of the same concerns that are in Hawley’s bill.
However, the UK investigation is also looking at videogames, which Hawley’s bill does not address. In June, the developers of the trendy mobile game Candy Crush testified that over 9 million people spent at least three hours daily playing their game, while about 432,000 played the game for six hours or more.
Nevertheless, Alex Dale, Chief Marketing Officer for King.com, contended that there was not an addiction problem with the game, saying that it was “very difficult” to determine when the length of time playing the game was “excessive”.