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Thread: Stopping the Manipulation Machines

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Fly-over country

    Default Stopping the Manipulation Machines

    Some things are difficult by design.
    Consider Amazon. The company perfected the one-click checkout. But canceling a $119 Prime subscription is a labyrinthine processthat requires multiple screens and clicks.
    Or Ticketmaster. Online customers are bombarded with options for ticket insurance, subscription services for razors and other items and, when users navigate through those, they can expect to receive a battery of text messages from the company with no clear option to stop them.
    These are examples of “dark patterns,” the techniques that companies use online to get consumers to sign up for things, keep subscriptions they might otherwise cancel or turn over more personal data. They come in countless variations: giant blinking sign-up buttons, hidden unsubscribe links, red X’s that actually open new pages, countdown timers and pre-checked options for marketing spam. Think of them as the digital equivalent of trying to cancel a gym membership.
    There are plans in both the House and Senate to tackle dark patterns. And there’s movement at the state level, too. California strengthened its data privacy laws to include certain dark patterns and, in Washington State, lawmakers included similar language in a failed privacy bill of its own.

    The phrase was coined over a decade ago by a British user experience designer — who maintains an online “hall of shame” — and since then dark patterns have become only more effective and pernicious. Because of the scale of the internet, if even a small percentage of these ploys work, many thousands or even millions of people may be affected.

    Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign, for instance, used a website with pre-checked boxes that committed donors to give far more money than they had intended, a recent Times investigation found. That cost some consumers thousands of dollars that the campaign later repaid.

    Trump’s Dark Patterns

    A series of donation prompts encouraged supporters to turn single donations into recurring monthly or weekly donations.

    March 2020

    October 2020

    A single prompt asked supporters to make their
    single donation a recurring monthly donation.
    The language was unambiguous at first.

    These evolved into this series of multiple
    checkboxes with unclear descriptions. Details
    about the now-weekly donation were buried.

    By The New York Times

    Enforcement against dark patterns has been uneven, and generally left to the Federal Trade Commission under its rules prohibiting “unfair or deceptive acts.” But those unfair and deceptive acts can be hard to identify, or even to notice — which is, of course, precisely as practitioners intend. Without a clear baseline of federal enforcement, they have flourished. Yet stronger rules defining the extent of the problem and addressing the more egregious tricks could help to curtail the practice.

    Parting consumers from their money is as old as retail itself. But with the benefit of real-time user data and the ability to quickly change online interfaces, dark patterns can be far more effective — and diabolical — than offline tricks. Protections that offline consumers enjoy, like cooling-off periods after buying a car, typically don’t apply to online transactions.

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    By The New York Times

    This week, the F.T.C. held a workshop on dark patterns and their impact on consumers, particularly children. Last year, the F.T.C. fined the parent company of the children’s educational program ABCmouse $10 million over what it said were tactics to keep customers paying as much as $60 annually for the service by obscuring language about automatic renewals and forcing users through six or more screens to cancel.
    At the F.T.C. event, panelists were shown an example of a children's video game that threatened to turn a virtual pet over to the S.P.C.A. unless users made a $10 payment. Panelists, which included university researchers and regulators, detailed as well how dark patterns are particularly effective when used against minority groups, the poor, the less educated and the elderly, echoing offline schemes.
    “While there’s nothing inherently wrong with companies making money, there is something wrong with those companies intentionally manipulating users to extract their data,” said Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester, a Delaware Democrat, at the F.T.C. event. She said she planned to introduce dark pattern legislation later this year.
    A 2019 Senate bill would have banned tactics that “intentionally impair user autonomy, decision-making, or choice” and would have established a group to advise the F.T.C. on dark pattern enforcement. It failed to advance, but will be reintroduced during this session of Congress. Without such uniform federal legislation, a patchwork of state rules could lead to varying levels of enforcement and definitions of dark patterns — potentially creating more confusion for consumers and opportunity for unscrupulous businesses.
    At the state level, California has addressed some of the more unscrupulous dark patterns. It prevents companies from using design tricks to dupe Californians out of exercising their right to prohibit their data from being sold, for instance. The state’s privacy laws, due to be updated in 2023, will include further consumer protections.
    That’s a start. But there are many other common practices that must still be addressed for all consumers, like obscuring or burying unsubscribe buttons, fake sales countdown clocks, forcing users to file multiple requests to end a service, inoperable links, intentionally confusing choices and miniature or obscured fonts.

    Digital Dark Patterns

    The examples below, based on real-life examples, show the various ways dark patterns influence online behavior.

    Trick questions

    Bait and switch

    Selecting the first prompt would decline
    emails, but selecting the second would
    allow them.

    Closing the window would accept the
    scheduled update rather than cancel it.

    An update is recommended

    Please do not email me details
    of products and offers

    Please send me details of products
    and offers from third parties

    Based on your settings, an upgrade
    is scheduled to occur on April 10.

    Click here to change the upgrade time.


    Friend spam

    Roach motel

    Entering your email imports your contacts
    but also emails them all with an invitation
    to join the social network.

    To prevent your information from being
    shared with third parties, you have to opt
    out after the payment screen.

    Select payment method

    Find your friends

    Gift card



    Enter your email

    Privacy information

    We’ll import your contacts and suggest

    Ticket promotion! Your ticket includes
    a free subscription to Music Magazine



    I decline the magazine subscription

    Sneak into basket

    On an earlier checkout page, one total
    is shown ...

    ... but on the final checkout screen, a
    number of other charges were added.

    Your domain

    2 years


    Your domain

    2 years


    Taxes and fees


    Value Bundle!
    (.net, .org, .us)

    2 years




    Privacy add-on


    2 years


    Taxes and fees




    By The New York Times

    In a recent experiment testing some of the most commonly used tactics, like multiple opt-out screens and double-negatives, a University of Chicago Law School professor, Lior Strahilevitz, and a law clerk, Jamie Luguri, found that using dark patterns is extremely effective at compelling consumers to pay for services they didn’t necessarily want. Participants in the study subjected to digital cajoling were nearly four times more likely than a control group to keep a paid data protection service they had been automatically signed up for.
    More than one in 10 e-commerce sites rely on dark patterns, according to another study, which also found that many online customer testimonials (“I wouldn’t buy any other brand!”) and tickers counting recent purchases (“7,235 customers bought this service in the past week”) were phony, randomly generated by software programs.
    “Everyone is frustrated with dark patterns,” said Mr. Strahilevitz. “Companies are taking a calculated risk that they won’t get caught doing deceptive things because there is no consistent enforcement mechanism for this.”
    Strategies that took decades to streamline offline — at car lots, casinos, grocery stores and even on ballot initiatives — can now be perfected and refined essentially overnight thanks to the high-tech tools and real-time analytics available online. The largest companies also hire behavioral psychologists and game theorists to help hone their techniques.
    “The internet shouldn’t be the Wild West anymore — there’s just too much traffic,” said a Loyola Law School professor, Lauren Willis, at the F.T.C. event. “We need stop signs and street signs to enable consumers to shop easily, accurately.”
    Companies can’t be expected to reform themselves; they use dark patterns because they work. And while no laws will be able to anticipate or prevent every type of dark pattern, lawmakers can begin to chip away at the imbalance between consumers and corporations by cracking down on these clearly deceptive practices.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2015


    Quote Originally Posted by Green Man View Post

    Well I love Amazon. And being on food stamps I get a HUGE Break on the cost like Half Price it is. WOW is that neat and no it only takes a very few clicks too cancel ones self out of Prime I have done it a few times, then when they started this half price per month if one gets food stamps I joined again, and boy have I been ordering stuff over the year. lol

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2010


    So you support a company that provides money for pedophiles and child trafficking promoters? Oh wait all that you profess to like, democrats and liberal's does that as well so, I'll just leave you with the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. And no I am not posting examples here as those are easy enough to find as there have been hundreds of examples from many, many free sources. NO ONE needs to do business with kid didlers/supporters ever. No savings is worth that. Just my 2cp.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2010


    @dragonmouse - don't waste your time on Hoppalong & company, they're useless - and apparently parasites.

    As for Amazon - their obvious need to silence Parler and breaching their contracts is all I need to know about where they're coming from. I have received a fair amount of s**t from them, and primarily shop locally now.

    I'm in the software biz, and AWS ( "Amazon Web Services" ) is HUGE. The cat's pajamas. You can command an extra $25,000-$50,000 a year ON TOP of whatever your software engineer's pay would be if you're conversant.

    Without going into too many details, AWS CAN be "cool" but as Parler found out - ALL your eggs are in Amazon's basket, and it's actually difficult to back your code into reasonably maintainable containers if Amazon has issues.

    Microsoft's "Azure" is the only real competitor to AWS, and has the same technological issues. All eggs in Redmond...

    As for the "dark patterns" thing - yeah, my wife has been trying to cancel Sirius XM for almost 2 months. It's crazy, but we just canceled their access to our account and go it done.

    That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

    Withdraw consent!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Slave Region 10


    They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
    “As a general rule, the earlier you recognize someone is trying to kill you, the better off you’ll be.”

    "You think a wall as solid as the earth separates civilisation from barbarism. I tell you the division is a sheet of glass."

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2010


    Oh yeah, I'm aware. I just found that I can shut his pie hole for a while with facts he can't answer and it lets the adults in the room have a real discussion. I don't waste my time unless I am just chillin here. I just couldn't add much as the whole techno babble is usually beyond my own interests. My computer is a glorified pinball machine and unless I cannot buy what I need anywhere else then amazon isn't even in the picture. All the convenience of the digital age never has seemed to me to be of much use and vastly more time consuming than just getting the job done locally. How to's like taking a gun apart, fixing a vehicle, raising chickens is available so I don't discount it entirely but it will never be something I can't just pitch out the window and go back to work from.
    I enjoy the tree and similar sites as a chance for some popcorn and an adult beverage after the real things of the day are done. Yanking the chains of woke morons is simply cathartic entertainment. Sometimes I need that to balance anything serious. m2cp

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2011


    And that is why certain posters are blocked. Not worth the time to read their drivel.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Fly-over country


    Some people would rather not know what's being done to them; or that it has a name. In this case: dark patterns.

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