U.S. Senator Josh Hawley, R-Mo., on Tuesday introduced The Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology (S.M.A.R.T.) Act.

The purpose of the legislation is to “curb addictive and deceptive techniques that tech giants use to exploit users.” So it would ban certain features that are, Hawley says, designed to be addictive such as infinite scroll, autoplay, and “achievements” such as “Snapstreak.” Exceptions to the bill would be “music playlists, social media predominantly designed to stream music, and ‘achievement’ badges that substantially increase access to new services or functionality.”

This bill also requires social media to include natural stopping points and have in-app functions to track the time a user spends on social media across devices. The Federal Trade Commission and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services would have the authority to ban other features, but those restrictions would sunset after three years unless ratified by Congress.

“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,” Hawley said in a released statement.

Shane’s Thoughts

I don’t need government to protect me from refined sugars or trans fat. I also don’t need government to protect me from infinite scroll and autoplay videos on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Big government is big government is big government.

This government regulation will not curb anything while kids and adults walk around with a device in their pockets that have more computing power than the computers used to send men to the moon.

Whether it is TV, computers, or smartphones we have always had the tendency to spend far too much time in front of screens.

It’s not the government’s job to protect us from that. It’s a parent’s job to put limitations on their children and enforce those. It’s our jobs to discipline ourselves.

Today, some in government want to protect us from autoplay videos and infinite scroll -what will they want to protect us from tomorrow?

Kelvey’s Thoughts

While a native Iowan, I currently live in Missouri and am forced to claim Hawley as one of my elected officials. I actively campaigned against him because I did not view him as someone who would consistently advocate for limited government. Unfortunately, I have been proven correct

Senator Hawley, where else would you like the government to protect us from ourselves? Perhaps you think a soda tax would be a good idea as well? Are you supportive of the bill to raise the legal age for purchasing tobacco? Maybe you would like to join the pro-gun control lobby? 

Regulation is a powerful tool, to be sure. In some cases, it should be carefully used. But, to steal a line attributed to Spiderman’s Uncle Ben, “With great power comes great responsibility.” 

If you seek regulation and bigger government as the answer to every social concern, you lose the right to call yourself a pro-liberty or constitutional conservative. 

This bill is garbage, through and through. Shame on you, Senator Hawley, for introducing it. Whether in all seriousness or as a way to stick it to big tech companies, you have earned the disdain of limited government conservatives everywhere.

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