In a time when the world is facing many serious issues, a new bill proposed by Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) looks a bit ridiculous. His Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology Act (SMART) aims to ban features across the tech industry designed to keep users hooked on their apps.
Of course, some notable features that would face extinction if the bill passes include YouTube’s autoplay feature and everyone’s favorite Snapstreaks. Meanwhile, the legislation even takes aim at design choices like button coloration. While it isn’t possible to deny that technology addiction is an issue, this bill seems to take things a bit too far.
Hawley’s bill comes following the FTC’s settlement with Facebook over privacy concerns as Congress turns its eye to big tech. Should it gain approval, the bill would ban addictive design across all platforms and all apps.
Sen. Hawley said, “Big tech has embraced a business model of addiction. 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.”
While it is true that there are plenty of features baked into users’ favorite apps to keep them engaged, the issue doesn’t seem bad enough to warrant federal oversight.
Although users would likely miss the likes of autoplay and Snapstreaks, the bill also suggests some more subtle changes. In fact, it targets something most people never think of—consciously at least.
The bill would ban companies from making design decisions like coloring an “accept” button solid green and the “decline” button white with an outline. These features are often a useful part of UX design to help guide users through a product or webpage. With the new bill, companies would need to make such choices identical in terms of color, font, and size.
For users that are truly concerned about their amount of screen time, companies like Apple already include a tool to help track it on its devices. The feature even breaks down which apps and sites are using up the most time.
Meanwhile, the new bill would force all social media companies and device manufacturers to create similar tools that are compatible with all platforms. Of course, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Everyone could stand to see how much time they’re spending on their device and maybe cut back a little.
However, this simply isn’t the part of the tech industry the government needs to regulate. Instead of trying to wipe out Snapstreaks, perhaps it should focus on regulating AI or facial recognition. While technologies like these have the potential to cause actual harm, wasting an extra hour on a YouTube autoplay video isn’t going to be the end of the world.