Senator Josh Hawley Calls for Social Media Oversight

Warren Albrecht | @drw_albrecht

Senator Josh Hawley introduced the SMART ACT, ( Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology Act). The point of the bill, if passed, is watching over the addictive nature of online media platforms. Scrolls, autoplay, and streaks would be outlawed. The content would be gentler, and as The Hill describes, “userfriendly”. The content by Sen. Hawley’s concern is psychologically injuring consumers.

Are Consumers Psycho?

Sen Hawley again from The Hill,

“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.”

 The bill prohibits social media companies using internet practices which are brainwashing consumers.

To prohibit social media companies from using practices
that exploit human psychology or brain physiology to
substantially impede freedom of choice
The SMART ACT gives no definition of human psychological elements and includes no accounts of brain psychology.

Human Psychology vs. Marketing

As mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg’s ban on big soft drinks was a distraction from larger health and healthcare issues. Prohibition of large cups of delicious drinks will not wipe out obesity as calories next to food items and may trigger other eating disorders. Marijuana will be regulated because the market will create better strains and more potent products.

The 1998 tobacco industry settlement reached with 46 states, focused on youth. The reason is direct marketing towards young consumers. Restrictions included no cartoons to be used. In 2014, the New York Times estimated that only 1.9% of settlement and tax money would be used for tobacco prevention. Many state bonds depending on tobacco taxes will begin to default in the year 2026 per the article. All because the tobacco industry created a product which may have more nicotine and was good at marketing. A prohibition is not an alternative option.

Senator Hawley is Growing Government

Senator Hawley and his fellow senators will not take shifts monitoring the platform companies like YouTube, Facebook, Snapshot or Twitter. The Smart Act will give the authority for creating rules to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The authorities must review each rule every three years. The SMART ACT would give the FTC,

in the same manner, by the same means, and with the same jurisdiction, powers, and duties as though all applicable
terms and provisions of the Federal Trade Commission Act

Remember LabMD

As I have previously written about poor judgments of the FDA, the FTC has a history of bullying businesses into handing over money. If taxes are theft. The FTC is a thief.
LabMD was a small but lucrative independent medical lab which through a poor judgment of an employee causing no patient harm, fell under the eye of the FTC. LabMD is a hero in a David vs Goliath. Reviewed from CATO,
Only Mike Daugherty, the entrepreneur who started and ran LabMD, had the temerity to see this case through all the way to a federal court. …After losing his business and a decade of his life, Daugherty is a hero to anyone who’s ever gotten the short end of the regulatory stick.
The whole story is worth the read at Bloomberg.
The psychological warfare the FTC did on the company, the morale, the diversion, the fear…
Senator Hawley’s belief that the FTC will use this consumer oversight for good is heavily misguided.

Senator Hawley’s Position

The voluntary cooperation of the free market reduces coercion and increased freedom of choice. Neither the GOP, nor the Democratic Party has an interest in minimizing the size of the federal government.
For a newly elected member of the Senate from the GOP, Senator Hawley has so much more to discuss with the debate about platforms vs. publishers. From a Sen. Hawley editorial in USA today,
They’ve designed platforms that extract massive amounts of personal data without telling consumers, then sell that data without consumers’ permission.
But Senator Hawley earlier this year began to see the possibility of using the FTC to “audit” media platforms. There may be something to Sen. Hawley’s belief that social media can be addictive. But, giving federal commissions and departments more authority is quite absurd.

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