Addictive design of online services
Today, a large majority of members of the European Parliament voted in favour of a report on tackling the addictive design of online services. The Greens in Parliament have long advocated for measures to tackle big tech’s tricks to keep you hooked to screens, and this is perhaps the first time the European Parliament has made that explicit. The report introduces a number of new concepts for consumer law in the text, which will be of particular importance for the Commission's current overhaul of consumer protection legislation.
Following the vote, Grace O'Sullivan, MEP for Ireland South said: "Irish people spend more time in front of the phone and the computer screen than most other countries on earth, on average about 6 hours a day according to some studies. Time is valuable, and it is especially valuable to media companies who can quite literally put a price on it through advertising, in-game purchases, and selling our personal data. The Parliament today sent a strong message to the Commission that in forthcoming legislation, it must put forward measures to end malicious addictive practices designed to keep us online but with our brains turned off."
Kim van Sparrentak, Greens/EFA MEP and European Parliament Rapporteur on the Addictive Design of Online Services, comments: “Why do we still accept that we are barely able to concentrate on work or have a conversation without being distracted by a phone? No amount of self-discipline can beat big tech’s tricks, fuelled by armies of designers and psychologists to keep you glued to your screen. If we don’t act now, this will have an impact on the mental health and brain development of generations to come.
Today the European Parliament sends a strong signal: The EU can and should lead in tackling the addictive design of online services.
More: The report includes, among other things, a proposed ban on the most addictive design features, such as endless scrolling and automatic movie playback, a reversal of the burden of proof for these addictive systems, action against social media's addictive recommendation algorithms and clarity on what goes on behind the scenes, with access to the dashboards of big tech companies. It is now up to the Commission to make these a reality with legislative proposals.