January 22, 2019

1:00 pm - 2:00 pm , Eastern Time

The First Amendment & Regulating Habit-Forming Technology


Professor Kyle Langvardt will discuss how tech developers, like slot machine designers, strive to maximize the user’s “time on device.” They do so by designing habit-forming products – products that draw consciously on the same behavioral design strategies that the casino industry pioneered. The predictable result is that most tech users spend more “time on device” than they would like (about five hours of phone time a day) while a substantial minority develop life-changing behavioral problems similar to problem gambling. It is unclear how much of this regulation could survive First Amendment scrutiny; software, unlike other consumer products, is widely understood as a form of protected “expression.” But it is also unclear that well-drawn laws to combat compulsive technology use would seriously threaten First Amendment values.