‘There is no excuse for exploiting children through such practices’

On Wednesday, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) announced that he would be introducing a bill banning “manipulative” design features in video games with underage audiences, including the sale of loot boxes.

The legislation would, if approved, prohibit the sale of loot boxes in games targeted at children under the age of 18. Games marketed toward wider audiences could also face penalties from regulators like the Federal Trade Commission if companies knowingly allow children to purchase these randomized crates.

“Social media and video games prey on user addiction, siphoning our kids’ attention from the real world and extracting profits from fostering compulsive habits,” Hawley said. “No matter this business model’s advantages to the tech industry, one thing is clear: there is no excuse for exploiting children through such practices.”

Regulators would determine whether a game is targeted at minors by considering similar indicators that they already use under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Subject matter and the game’s visual content would help regulators determine who the game is marketed toward.

Pay-to-win mechanics in games targeted at minors would also be outlawed under this legislation. This includes progression systems that encourage people to spend money to advance through a game’s content at a faster pace.

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