Law Seeks to Make Addictive Social Media “Tricks” Illegal


Social media, just like mobile apps, often uses some element of video games or electronic gaming to hook people into participating more and more.

Pixabay from Pexels.

Think notifications for likes and comments, racking up more views, getting notified that a post is doing “particularly” well and just needs a $5 push – you know, how most apps make money and keep you engaged. Governments want to change this and, what could almost be seen as a larger push against likes etc., wants to make this kind of behavior illegal. An extreme response, to be sure, but the fact that you can promote posts, buy followers, and spend all kinds of money on these apps, it makes sense. PetaPixel reports that US Senator from Missouri Josh Hawley introduced a bill that would do just that with the so-called Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology Act (SMART).

The law would “prohibit social media companies from using practices that exploit human psychology or brain physiology to substantially impede freedom of choice.” This would be part of a broader effort at getting providers to stop behaviors that encourage addicting behaviors on the Internet or what the bill calls “psychological exploitation.”

What are some of the specific examples cited? Snapchat Snap streaks, endless scrolling on websites, and endlessly playing videos on YouTube in addition to what we cited above. As some people are pointing out, it isn’t really clear how endless scrolling and auto-play make things addictive but the bill is taking a comprehensive approach it seems.

This isn’t a new space for Hawley as he regularly lambasts social media in the press.

He wrote for USA Today,

“Advertising is what the social giants truly care about, and for an obvious reason. It’s how they turn a profit. And when it comes to making money, they’ve been great innovators. They’ve designed platforms that extract massive amounts of personal data without telling consumers, then sell that data without consumers’ permission.

And in order to guarantee an audience big enough to make their ads profitable, big tech has developed a business model designed to do one thing above all: addict.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram — they devote massive amounts of money and the best years of some of the nation’s brightest minds to developing new schemes to hijack their users’ neural circuitry. That’s because social media only works — to make money, anyway — if it consumes users’ time and attention, day after day. It needs to replace the various activities we enjoyed and did perfectly well before social media existed.”

You can read that article here.

As we’ve highlighted here in the news, Instagram and Facebook, particularly, are culling accounts and tightening up regulations to make their respective spaces more advertiser-friendly but this bill isn’t targeting that. It’s targeting the core of what makes these apps work and, if passed, could have some pretty big implications.

What do you think? Do social media apps need to be less like video games and more something else? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

Also check out our other photography news articles on Light Stalking by clicking here.


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Kehl is our staff photography news writer and has over a decade of experience in online media and publishing and you can get to know him better here

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