MEPs have demanded that new tech regulations be implemented at the EU level aimed at making social media less addictive. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)


MEPs demand regulations to make social media less addictive


MEPs have demanded that new technology regulations be implemented at the European Union level aimed at making social media less addictive.

Members of the European Parliament Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) have passed a proposal calling on the European Commission to draft legislation aimed at eliminating certain addictive elements from digital platforms.

Including the likes of endless scrolling, pull-to-refresh, never-ending auto-play videos, push notifications, temporarily available stories, likes and read-receipts, MEPs have described such design choices as harming the mental health of users for financial gain.

Politicians are said to be particularly concerned about the impact such practices have on children and teens. Some of the designs employed by tech firms are being linked to depression and the development of ADHD.

“No self-discipline can beat the addictive design we are all subject to today,” proposal rapporteur and MEP Kim Van Sparrentak said.

“Problematic smartphones use affects attention span and brain development from a young age,” she added.

“If we do not intervene now, this will have an enormous impact on generations to come.”

While the committee’s agreed statement on addictive design leaves little doubt as to the views of the body, it appears unlikely that the EU will take legislative action against such practices anytime soon.

Although strongly worded, the document is completely non-binding, with MEPs being at the mercy of the EC in regards to future decisions on the issue.

The EC is currently conducting an “evaluation” of the EU tech space to ascertain whether it needs to “update certain consumer protection legislation to ensure a high level of protection in the digital environment”, although this is only set to be completed in 2024.

Deciding on and implementing legislative action on top of that is likely to take a substantial amount of time. That is especially so considering that both the EC and European Parliament are soon to be repopulated with a new set of Eurocrats and politicians following the parliamentary elections in June 2024.

Moves on the issue of right-to-repair within the EU may come earlier. The IMCO also passed a draft proposal on October 25 that would drastically expand the responsibilities of tech manufacturers when it comes to device maintenance.

Due to be voted on by the entire European Parliament in late November, the new rules would require producers to ensure spare parts are available for third-party repair shops.

Such independent businesses would also have to be granted access to any technical data needed to aid the repair of consumer electronics. Currently, tech companies frequently refuse to release schematics to such firms, making repairs more difficult.

“Through better access to relevant technical repair information and affordable spare parts for repairers, including promoting 3D printing for parts, more competition will drive down repair costs,” rapporteur and S&D MEP René Repasi said.

She added that the proposed rules put an obligation on Member States to help “kick-start” their repair sectors with financial incentives.

The measures received support from across the political spectrum, with German ID Group MEP Markus Buchheit saying that right-to-repair “makes good sense”.

“The extension of the lifespan of electronic devices is very welcome as an improvement for consumers,” he said.

“We want a competitive and technologically excellent Germany where people have jobs, food and heating.”

Buchheit does not see eye-to-eye with his fellow IMCO members on all of the motives behind the reforms. He warned that the ability to repair one’s smartphone should be seen as separate from Europe’s extreme climate goals.

“We don’t believe there is evidence for the hysterical idea that the world will end in 12 years,” he said.

“Therefore we completely oppose the idea of a halt on economic and industrial life in Europe due to the idiotic ideology of climate alarmism.”