GOP Senator’s Bill to Curb Social Media Addiction Receives Mixed Reactions: Here Are 4 Things to Know

Mike Segar/File Photo/Reuters

Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) announced his legislation to combat social media addiction — and it’s been getting mixed reactions.

The freshman senator introduced a new bill, titled the Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology [SMART] Act. This bill aims to reduce the amount of time Americans spend online.

While the bill may have noble intentions, some aren’t sold. Here are four things to know about the SMART Act.

1. Hawley has been on a quest to reign in big tech companies.

As IJR previously reported, the freshman senator already introduced a few bills aimed at big tech. One bill would prevent companies like Google from helping to build foreign militaries, including China.

Hawley’s other bill would deny publisher protections to social media platforms if they are found to have a political bias. Right now, Facebook and Twitter are legally considered platforms and are not liable if defamatory statements are posted to their pages because they are only a tool for the communication to occur, similar to a phone line.

If his bill became law, it would open up social media companies to lawsuits if they are found to have a political bias, threatening their existence. As IJR reported at the time, the bill has gotten mixed reviews.

2. His new bill focuses on social media addiction.

Hawley’s SMART Act aims to reduce the amount of time people spend on social media by outlawing the addictive algorithms that drive traffic on websites and apps.

In his announcement for the bill, Hawley wrote:

“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. This legislation will put an end to that and encourage true innovation by tech companies.”

As NPR’s Tim Mak explained, the bill would limit many common social media features if it were to become law. Under the SMART Act, there would be no more YouTube autoplay, snap streaks on Snapchat, or endless scrolling through Facebook or Twitter.

This would likely have a major impact on the business models for social media companies, as well as those who use social media as part of their business plans, such as news outlets, marketing firms, and other businesses that tap into social media for advertising.

Josh Golin, Executive Director of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, added to Hawley’s announcement, writing, “Social media companies deploy a host of tactics designed to manipulate users in ways that undermines their wellbeing. We commend Senator Hawley for introducing legislation that would prohibit some of the most exploitative tactics, including those frequently deployed on children and teens.”

3.  Some fear Hawley’s bill gives the government too much power.

Many conservatives and libertarian-minded people have a major problem with the government stepping in to dictate how individuals interact with tech companies. While Hawley’s bill wouldn’t technically prevent someone from staying online as much as they wanted, the bill would require tech companies to throw hurdles in the way of mindless scrolling or viewing.

Several took to Twitter to outline their concerns:

While some patiently laid out their concerns, others pulled no punches and mocked both Hawley and his legislation.

4. Others consider social media addiction to be a public health crisis.

While some mocked Hawley’s legislation, others noted that there is a reason for people to be concerned about social media addiction. Some fear that addiction to technology is a public health crisis that is negatively impacting Americans, both physically and mentally.

Still many noted that, while it may be a public health crisis, that doesn’t mean the government has the best antidote.

For now, it isn’t clear if Hawley’s legislation will gain support in the Senate or not. Several Republicans have called out big tech for their algorithms, including Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Additionally, 2020 Democrat Tulsi Gabbard is suing Google for allegedly censoring her campaign during the first round of Democratic primary debates.

What do you think?

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Phyllis Softa
Member

Sounds as if he wants to limit Trump’s twitter time. Good luck with that.

Peter Aiello
Member

Sounds like a spiritual problem. Politics is going to fix it?

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