MEPs vote to ban addictive features on smartphone apps

MEPs vote to ban addictive features on smartphone apps

An overwhelming majority of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have voted in favour of a proposal by Dutch MP Kim van Sparrentak to ban the addictive design features used in online games, social media, streaming services and online marketplaces.

MEPs plan to regulate addictive design features online

After a vote on December 12, MEPs have called for the EU to create new regulations to address addictive technological design features and “increase consumer protection through safer alternatives”.

Speaking to RTL Nieuws, Dutch MEP Kim van Sparrentak, who proposed the bill, said, “[I]f we don’t intervene now, [phone addiction] will affect people’s mental health and even brain development of the generations of the future”. 

According to the European Commission, people aged between 16 and 24 spend an average of over seven hours a day on the internet, with one in four displaying problematic smartphone use resembling addiction. Now, the Commission has said that it will make sure safer designs are enforced, “even if they are not as profitable for social media platforms”. 

To do this, the Commission needs to draft a bill to state how the new law could tackle the problem. This is likely to include a ban on addictive app features on mobile phones, such as infinite scroll, and default autoplay, or to have addictive and attention-grabbing settings like constant push and read receipt notifications turned off as the default setting. This may include creating a digital “right not to be disturbed”.

Van Sparrentak says regulation must protect from Big Tech’s tricks

Rather than relying on social media and smartphone users to be more disciplined in their use, van Sparrentak said that “the EU has to be the first in the world to tackle the addictive design of online services”.

“No self-discipline can beat Big Tech’s tricks, fuelled by armies of designers and psychologists to keep you glued to your screen," she added.

Thumb image credit: Lucky Business /

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan



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