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S&Ds call for EU rules to fight digital addiction


12 Dec 2023


Global Europe

Today, the European Parliament has adopted a set of recommendations to tackle the addictive nature of online services, including social media and streaming services. This addictiveness can keep users on apps longer than intended to capture their attention and monetise their data.

Manipulative and addictive designs or behavioural designs are hugely damaging and contribute to mental health issues, causing behaviour-related risks and harm, including forms of digital addiction, in particular among children and young people. The adopted report represents the first significant effort at the European level to tackle digital manipulative designs and their impact on people’s mental health. It also calls on the Commission to present legislation on addictive design, be it in existing legislation such as the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive or by new legislation.

Among the key calls of the Socialists and Democrats on the European Commission included in the report are: assess the addictive and mental-health effects of interaction-based recommender systems (Netflix, YouTube, Amazon), as they keep users on the platform as long as possible rather than serve in a neutral manner; or consider reversing the burden of proof for practices that the Commission and national authorities have found to or presume to be addictive.

Alex Saliba, S&D MEP and shadow rapporteur on addictive design of online services and consumer protection in the EU single market, said:

“Digital addiction exists and is a real problem! Many of us are literally addicted to our phones. But people are not the problem; it is the online services, such as games, social media, streaming sites and online marketplaces that are designed to keep us hooked on scrolling. The damage of such practices is real. Especially children and adolescents are easy prey for these addictive designs, which negatively affect their attention span and brain development from a young age. We need to act now to help people break this cycle because no self-discipline can withstand the addictive design we are all subject to today.

“It is time to raise the alarm and take steps against excessive internet use and the addictive nature of certain digital services, which exploit people’s vulnerabilities with the only purpose being to capture their attention and monetise their data. The European Parliament is calling for new laws to protect us, forcing platforms to develop ethical and fair digital products and services. Some of the things we are pushing for will have immediate benefits – like turning off all notifications by default, an easy choice between colour and greyscale, and warnings when users spend too much time looking at the screen.

“We expect the upcoming European Commission to tackle the addictive design of online services as a priority for the EU.”


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