Legislating Social Media Addiction: Brainstorm Health

July 31, 2019, 12:10 AM UTC

There’s a presidential primary debate on tonight (and I imagine at least a few readers will be checking in on it, given an expected focus on health care).

But let’s check in on a more low-key, and likely quixotic, policy quest aligned with the digital health space. A freshman U.S. Senator (Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican), has proposed legislation that would ban “addictive” features on social media platforms.

The Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology Act (or, well, the SMART Act) would prevent some of the big tech names like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter from using algorithmic means to feed on their very human users’ propensity for spending hours upon hours on said platforms (behavior that hasn’t exactly been linked with great mental health outcomes).

This might include the use of auto-play videos, or “infinite scrolling” (wherein your digital wormhole literally has no end), or programmable behavior encouraging users to constantly engage.

Whether such a piece of legislation has a snowball’s chance in passing – and even if it does, whether it would pass constitutional muster – well, that’s a whole different story. But perhaps one that will appear in the endless social media loop.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee, @the_sy_guy, sayak.mukherjee@fortune.com


A meditation app with a twist. My colleague Ellen McGirt has a typically insightful-yet-fun piece up today about a meditation app that's specifically geared towards people of color in an era of violence and divisiveness centered on minorities. The Liberate Meditation app includes "talks and meditations [that] are all offered by Buddhist people of color, and you don’t have to be a practitioner to enjoy the emotional safety the teachings provide," Ellen writes. (Fortune)


Merck continues to crush on strength of Keytruda. I've written before (and recently) about the failings of big, legacy pharmaceutical companies. One standout appears to be Merck, which absolutely obliterated Wall Street expectations on the strength of its star cancer immunotherapy Keytruda. Keytruda brought in about $2.6 billion in sales in just a single quarter, placing it far ahead of competitors like Bristol-Myers Squibb's rival Opdivo. That figure is a stunning 58% increase in sales for the quarter. Keytruda has succeeded where many of its competitors have failed, particularly in the massive lung cancer space.


Expect health care fireworks at tonight's Democratic debate. Debate night is underway (part one of two, anyways). This evening, look out for some fireworks between Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, two candidates generally considered to be on the left side of the spectrum who may be compelled to lay out exactly what their differences are on "Medicare for All" and universal health coverage policies.


A Guide to Tonight's Democratic Debateby Melanie Eversley

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Fighting Deepfakes Gets Realby Bernhard Warner

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