Snapchat’s Snapstreaks, auto-playing videos on YouTube and Facebook’s endless newsfeed could be outlawed under a proposed bill in the US.

The Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology (SMART) Act has been drafted by Republican senator Josh Hawley to tackle what he called “addiction as a business model”.

Its stated aim is to “prohibit social media companies from using practices that exploit human psychology” and to require them to address the risks of internet addiction.

Social media platforms
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Social media platforms ’embrace addiction as a business model’
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Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter are specifically named as examples of social media platforms which the law would target, with four key practices facing being banned:

  • Endless scrolling as on Facebook and Twitter without requiring the user to specifically request additional content.
  • Elimination of natural stopping points as additional content is automatically loaded and displayed, covering most of the firms
  • Autoplaying music or videos without an express separate prompt by the user, as on Facebook, YouTube and TikTok
  • Badges and awards linked to engagement without actually providing reward, such as Snapchat’s Snapstreaks
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“Big Tech has embraced addiction as a business model,” said Senator Hawley.

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“Their ‘innovation’ isn’t designed to create better products, but to capture attention by using psychological tricks that make it impossible to look away,” he added.

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The new law would allow the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to force social media firms to abandon practices which could encourage addiction.

Immediately the US trade group for the largest web giants responded to the proposed law by claiming its members were invested in developing tools to “promote healthy online experiences”.

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