EU considering proposal to restrict addictive apps, including social media

BRUSSELS - At the Initiative of GroenLinks Member of European Parliament Kim van Sparrentak, the European Union is considering legislation to force tech companies to make their apps less addictive. The Dutch MEP wants to ban social media companies from using tricks that lead to endless scrolling, among other things. “No self-discipline can compete against the tricks of tech companies,” she said to AD. 


Van Sparrentak wants to ban videos that start automatically and harmful design features aimed at endless scrolling. Notifications should be turned off by default, though users can enable them. And a warning should pop up if the user has been on a platform for 30 minutes in a row. 


“We already have strict rules on food, drink, and tobacco to protect our health. Addictive design of online services cannot be ignored,” Van Sparrentak said. When asked why the EU is only considering action now, Van Sparrentak said that it often takes time for the downsides of exciting innovations to become clear. 


Tech companies are already bound by legislation regarding privacy and data use and rules regulating free competition. “But addiction and its consequences are only noticeable in the longer term. The iPhone has been around for 15 years now, and there are now plenty of thorough studies about what its use does to people.” 


Van Sparrentak stressed that smartphones are a wonderful invention and social media has great added value. “But they affect attention span and brain development from a young age. If we do not intervene now, this will soon have a significant impact on entire generations,” she said. 

Related News