While technology companies are blocking adblockers (and users in turn are blocking adblock blockers – can you guess what will happen next?), Missouri Senator Josh Hawley is taking aim at another online annoyance: autoplay videos.
Hawley’s Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology Act, or the “SMART Act” by its cutesy retronym, will take aim at autoplay videos as part of a general crackdown against technology practices that work to keep users on platforms longer and more frequently. Other technologies deemed problematic are Snapchat’s Snapstreaks and infinite scroll pages, as well as “awarding users with badges, trophies and more for staying active on a platform.”
The preamble of the SMART Act claims it will “prohibit social media companies from using practices that exploit human psychology or brain physiology to substantially impede freedom of choice, to require social media companies to take measures to mitigate the risks of internet addiction and psychological exploitation, and for other purposes.”
The SMART Act would also target so-called “dark patterns” and deceptive practices in design, such as making “Accept” and “Decline” buttons the same size.
In a statement, Hawley claimed that “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.”
(One of the most useful and low-key brilliant browser extensions available to the world is AutoplayStopper, which does what it says on the label: it blocks those annoying, bandwith-hogging autoplay videos on YouTube and other sites. Highly recommended, for what it’s worth.)