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New Senate bill would make 'addictive' social media features illegal. Here's what you need to know

Social Media apps on a phone.
Social Media apps on a phone.
Jason Howie, Creative Commons

SALT LAKE CITY — Do you find yourself unintentionally spending too much time endlessly scrolling through social media feeds? Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., wants to help remove the distraction.

According to the Hill, Hawley recently introduced the Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology Act in Congress. The bill would make it illegal for social media platforms to include “addictive features” into their apps, like YouTube’s autoplay video queue and an “infinite scroll” feed.

"Big tech has embraced a business model of addiction," Hawley said in a statement. "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."

Companies would also be required to include features that help users limit the time they spend on respective platforms, including regular reminders of how much time has been spent on an app or feed.

Business Insider also reports the bill would be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Social media companies could also be fined for noncompliance to the SMART act.

Silicon Valley has pushed back against the bill, according to The Hill.

There are currently serious issues with some of the allegedly addictive features Sen. Hawley’s bill would target. The Verge reports that YouTube’s curated autoplay feature has been criticized for recommending predatory videos to children. The company recently took action to limit children’s exposure to harmful materials by deleting accounts and locking down comments on some “family vlogging” videos.

Hawley has been regularly critical of tech companies and social media. I also previously reported for Deseret News that Sen. Hawley introduced the Protecting Children From Abusive Games Act in May, which would ban random loot boxes and pay-to-win features from video games.

“When a game is designed for kids, game developers shouldn’t be allowed to monetize addiction. And when kids play games designed for adults, they should be walled off from compulsive microtransactions,” he said.

According to Congress.gov, the U.S. Senate has not yet voted on the Protecting Children From Abusive Games Act.