OK, maybe not all of Congress. Specifically speaking, Republican Senator Josh Hawley introduced a bill called the Social Media Reduction Technology Act (SMART) act. Clever play on words, right? In this bill Senator Hawley aims to limit everyone’s time on social media to 30 minutes per day. This led me to wonder, who is Senator Hawley and why did he create this bill?
Who is Senator Josh Hawley?
Senator Josh Hawley is a freshman senator from Missouri and the youngest member of the Senate at age 39. Before taking the oath, he served as Missouri’s attorney general. He graduated from Stanford University in 2002 and Yale Law School in 2006. His most well-known case was as lead attorney in the Hobby Lobby case against Obamacare in the Supreme Court. He was also the lead attorney in the Hosanna-Tabor case at the Supreme Court, which aimed to protect the rights of churches. In addition, Senator Hawley “fought the Washington overreach threatening farms and family businesses, including the Waters of the United States Rule and the Clean Power Plan,” according to his website.
By all accounts, Senator Hawley’s history shows he is against government overreach. Also, given his age, you would think he would embrace social media. So why did he propose the Social Media Reduction Technology Act (SMART) act? Why him? Why now?
What is Senator Hawley’s motivation behind the SMART act?
According to his website, Senator Hawley believes social media is designed to exploit human psychology and brain physiology. He claims the tech giants are doing everything they can to capture as much of our attention as possible and sell that time to advertisers. An example of this is a scrolling page. While we are trained from a young age that the end of a page is time to stop, social media pages go on and on, thus prompting us to continue to read. This results in the average time spent on social media of 2:08 hours per day. He believes tech giants exploit the science of addiction to manipulate users in ways that undermines their wellbeing.
What does the SMART act bill propose?
The Social Media Reduction Technology Act (SMART) act aims to:
- Ban infinite scroll, autoplay, and other addictive features on social media. (Music is an exception.)
- Require choice parity for consent.
- Gives the Federal Trade Commission and Health & Human Services authority to ban other practices.
- Give users the power to monitor and control their use time on social media.
Default setting would be 30 minutes per day. While the end user can override this, the clock would set back at the original default at the beginning of each month.
Is this bill right for our country?
Personally, I am for LESS government control. I believe the government’s only role should be to protect our borders (military), govern justice (laws), and administer funds for our public resources (roads, waterways, bridges, etc.) Everything beyond that is overreach.
I also believe all government officials are afraid of social media because it empowers every person with freedom of speech. (I am not saying this is Senator Hawley’s motivation.) Peter Jennings once said, “Whoever controls the media, controls reality.” A 2016 study from Pew Research claims that 62% of people get their news from social media, with 18% doing so very often. Two-thirds of Facebook users (66%) get news on the site, nearly six in 10 Twitter users (59%) get news on Twitter, and seven in 10 Reddit users get news on that platform. On Tumblr, the figure sits at 31%, while for the other five social networking sites it is true of only about one-fifth or less of their user bases.
Information is power, and government officials know it. Social media allows every person to harness that power in both sharing and receiving information. We should all be concerned when our liberties are taken away, regardless of party affiliation. George Washington put it best when he said, “If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent, we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” Based on everything I have read, I do believe Senator Hawley’s heart is good, but I disagree with his SMART policies.
What are your thoughts? Email me at email@example.com to share your thoughts.
By: Deborah Frazier, author of IT Outsourcing Secrets: A Small Business Guide to Compare IT Support Companies.