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Republican Senator's bill would ban YouTube, Facebook scrolls as addictive

The bill would ban infinite, automatic content additions when users approach the end of feeds on sites. It wouldn’t apply to music-streaming sites or pre-compiled playlists.

Bloomberg|
Jul 31, 2019, 11.31 PM IST
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By Ben Brody

Republican Senator Josh Hawley introduced a bill Tuesday to ban unlimited scrolling on pages by social media sites such as Facebook Inc. and Google’s YouTube.

The bill would ban infinite, automatic content additions when users approach the end of feeds on sites. It wouldn’t apply to music-streaming sites or pre-compiled playlists.

The proposed legislation, which is unlikely to pass, represents the latest initiative by Hawley targeting large technology platforms as he emerges as one of the sector’s foremost Republican foes. Earlier in July, he addressed President Donald Trump’s gathering of conservative anti-tech voices, which also attracted conspiracy theorists and internet trolls.

Hawley has proposed other bills targeting the industry, including one to ban allegedly addictive features of video games and another requiring that companies face lawsuits for the user content they host if they don’t demonstrate political neutrality.

“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.”

Hawley’s bill would require that social media companies set a 30-minute limit for time on spent on their platforms. Users could change the limit, which would automatically reset monthly. The legislation would also require that companies send 30-minute alerts to users that set longer time limits.

Google and Facebook declined to comment. NetChoice, a trade group that counts both companies as members, said, “The goal of this bill is to make being online a less-enjoyable experience.”

Despite his conservative record, Hawley has often attracted Democratic partners on his legislation -- even as his neutrality bill in particular attracted broad scorn from tech experts. Most of his efforts face steep obstacles in Congress, which has struggled to reach consensus on high-priority legislation on privacy and other issues involving the technology sector.

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