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European Union Considers Regulating “Addictive Design” of Online Services

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted overwhelmingly last week to put legislation regulating addictive design on the agenda for the European Union. At a plenary session on December 12, MEPs voted 545 in favor, 12 against, and 61 abstained, to adopt a report and generate legislation restricting addictive design.

The report considers “online games, social media, streaming services, and online marketplaces, which exploit users’ vulnerabilities to capture their attention and monetise their data.” Some of the design devices the MEPs want to regulate include:

  • infinite scrolling
  • default to auto play
  • frequent push notifications
  • read receipt notifications
  • misleading design

The need to regulate addictive design comes along with reports of increased internet addiction (IA). A study just published in BMC Psychiatry examined the connection between internet addiction and diet, and found an interesting correlation between the two, mediated by reported depression and insomnia. The researchers conclude:

Policy makers, educators and researchers should pay attention to the impact of the interventions from healthy diet, in order to optimize the coping strategies for preventing college students from IA.

While MEPs recognized the benefits of social media, they also called attention to the harmful effects internet addiction can cause, such as “the physical, psychological and material harm addictive design can have, including loss of concentration and cognitive ability, burnout, stress, depression, [and] limited physical activity.”

The report on internet addiction was the product of the European Parliament’s Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO). The IMCO is expected to include recommendations on addictive design regulation in a 2024 consumer protection package.

Written by Steve O’Keefe. First published December 20, 2023.


“MEPs call for new rules on digital platforms’ addictive design,” Euractiv, December 13, 2023.

“New EU rules needed to address digital addiction,” European Parliament Press Release, December 12, 2023.

“Relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and internet addiction…” BMC Psychiatry, December, 2023.

Image Copyright: rh2010.


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