Grind for August 4th
“Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.” – Albert Camus
Lawmakers consider a bill designed to make social media less addictive
A new bill in the Senate aims to outlaw some of the features social media platforms use to keep users engaged for long periods of time.
The bill, introduced by Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), would ban sites from implementing features like Snapstreaks, YouTube autoplay, and endless scrolling.
“If I take the bottom out of this glass and I keep refilling the water or the wine, you won’t know when to stop drinking,” says Tristan Harris, an expert who spoke with lawmakers last month about persuasive tech.
“That’s what happens with infinitely scrolling feeds.”
If the bill passes, all social media companies will be required to implement tools that help users keep track of the time they spend using their devices.
“Big tech has embraced a business model of addiction,” argues Hawley. “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.”
Hawley’s bill would also outlaw the kind of deceptive tricks that landed Facebook in another FTC settlement.
Last week, Facebook settled with the FTC for $5 billion after it violated the provisions from a settlement it agreed to in 2012.
Facebook broke the earlier agreement by misrepresenting the extent to which users could control the privacy of their data (the same issue that sparked the charges in 2012).
For example, Facebook continued to share a user’s personal data with companies that developed apps used by that person’s friends even if that person utilized Facebook’s new “Privacy Shortcuts” and “Privacy Checkup” tools.
Facebook did give users the option to lock their personal information (as per the 2012 agreement) but that setting was hidden in a place users were unlikely to look – and it was not available using the new privacy tools Facebook unveiled for people to “review and edit the privacy of key pieces of information.”
This time around, the FTC settlement forces Facebook to implement major changes to its privacy practices and to its corporate structure – including the role of CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
The order requires Facebook to closely monitor third-party developers and to terminate relationships with companies that don’t follow its privacy rules. In addition, Facebook is banned from using the telephone numbers it ‘obtained for security purposes’ for advertising purposes.
The new rules apply to Facebook and to all the companies it controls (like Instagram and WhatsApp).
Indian Parliament outlaws a controversial Muslim divorce practice
Lawmakers in India’s upper house of parliament voted 99-84 Tuesday to criminalize Triple Talaq – a Muslim practice that allows a man to get divorced by saying the word talaq three times in a row.
The decision was approved in the lower house last week.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi described Triple Talaq as a “historical wrong done to Muslim women” and celebrated parliament’s decision as a “victory of gender justice” that will “further equality in society.”
Triple Talaq, which comes from the Hanafi Islamic school of law, has already been banned in more than 20 countries. In 2017, India’s Supreme Court declared Triple Talaq a violation of Muslim women’s constitutional rights.
India’s decision makes Triple Talaq punishable by up to three years in prison.
Critics oppose the prison sentence because it does not include spousal support for women. They also worry the ban on Triple Talaq will trap women in abusive marriages.
GOOD TO THE LAST DROP:
Did you know… Dueling is legal in Paraguay, as long as both parties are registered blood donors.