U.S. Senator Josh Hawley has a vendetta against social media companies and Big Tech. The Missouri Republican’s multi-pronged attack on technology is far from surprising since he’s painting himself as some sort of modern-day Tipper Gore looking to save us from ourselves. An arbiter of justice, so to speak.
Hawley’s latest legislation is a bill he’s calling The Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology Act – a bill which looks to set limits on the amount of time people spent on social media.
Social media is sold to us as a way to connect with distant friends and relatives. But tech giants don’t stop there. They design platforms with a bottom-line goal in mind: Capture as much of our attention as possible and immediately sell that attention to advertisers.
Tech giants exploit the science of addiction to put up as many obstacles as possible to keep us on their platforms. Natural stopping points, like the end of a page, naturally prompt users to choose whether to continue reading. But tech giants eliminate these mental opportunities by using structures like infinite scroll for newsfeeds and autoplay for videos.
The solution? Social media limitation, according to Hawley. From the bill itself.
(A)utomatically limits the amount of time that a user may spend on those platforms across all devices to 30 minutes a day unless the user elects to adjust or remove the time limit and, if the user elects to increase or remove the time limit, resets the time limit to 30 minutes a day on the first day of every month…displays a conspicuous pop-up to a user not less than once every 30 minutes that the user spends on those platforms, regardless of whether the user spent the 30 minutes on multiple devices, that shows how much time the user has spent on those platforms that day.
This is pure lunacy.
Hawley wants to be the parent ripping the TV remote away from a child so they can go do their homework. It’s akin to a bureaucrat telling someone to be a good citizen, stop viewing the news, and go pray to our great government god-king who is protecting us from all outside forces. Hawley’s yearning for power over Big Tech would fit right in with countries like China or Russia where an immense amount of force is put over the Internet and who gets to view what.
One has to wonder how Hawley would treat all those who use social media as their primary source of income. This type of move to give the great god of government more power over Big Tech would severely harm streamers who seek to entertain via YouTube or Twitch by preventing them from even getting to understand their audience. What about those who seek to educate the populace through video? For every social media influencer trying to assist a company through product placement, there are gobs of videos introducing people to FA Hayek or Herbert Spencer or Frederic Bastiat. Or would these videos not be allowed in Hawley’s fantasy world of limited social media because of their encouragement of freedom, liberty, and free markets?
This bill shouldn’t get far in the Senate – it shouldn’t even make it through committee. The stench of virtue signaling runs strong with this proposal so strongly that it’s likely to completely overcome even normal nanny-state senses with its ridiculousness. All Hawley is trying to position himself as a champion of national conservatism – or whatever it’s being called – by telling people, “I’m from the government, I’m here to help.”
The SMART Act should be called the DUMB Act and left in the same dumpster as the Green New Deal. Hawley has proposed a pernicious and detrimental bill all painted up in the notion of being “for the children” when all it will do is destroy innovation, severely damage the economy, and rend freedom asunder.