Feb 7, 2018

Top Democrat sees evidence that tech can become addictive

Sen. Mark Warner. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee said Wednesday he thinks there's a mounting body of evidence that some major tech products can become addictive.

“I think there’s more and more evidence that there are addictive properties.”
— Sen. Mark Warner (Va.)

The bigger picture: Warner's concerns about tech have largely been focused with the potential for foreign election interference to take place online — not the public health effects of tech. But all of the conversations about the massive influence of online platforms are becoming linked.

The gritty details:

  • In a speech at a conference focused on health and technology, Warner cited the high rates at which people check their smartphones, which researchers have found can top more than 100 times a day for some users.
  • Warner also said the same tactics used by Russian operatives in their political disinformation campaigns can be used by fraudsters potentially targeting young people online.
  • He told reporters, however, that it wasn't clear that government should regulate Silicon Valley unilaterally. "I'd much rather do this in a collaborative effort with the companies but with the notion that if they don’t acknowledge this, I think public unease is going to dramatically undermine consumer’s trust," he said.
  • "This is a place where other nations are ahead of us. I think China has even kind of ... [initiatives to] try to diminish young people's addiction to some of their devices," he said.

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