Govt identifies 9 ‘dark patterns’ on online platforms

The government has identified nine ‘dark patterns’, or tactics used by online platforms to manipulate consumers. The Centre has asked e-commerce companies to not use “dark patterns” on their platforms that may deceive customers or manipulate their choices. What are dark patterns?
  • Dark patterns, also known as deceptive patterns, is the term used to describe the ways in which websites or apps make their users do things that the users do not intend to do or would not otherwise do, as well as to discourage user behaviour that is not beneficial for the companies.
  • Some patterns include
    • creating a false sense of urgency
    • adding products to the cart without consent
    • forcing users to sign-up to access content
    • confirm shaming
    • hidden costs and nagging
  • The term dark patterns was coined by Harry Brignull, a London-based user experience (UX) designer, in
Examples of dark patterns
  • The Internet is replete with examples of dark patterns.
Think of that annoying advertisement that keeps popping up on the screen, and one can’t find the cross mark ‘X’ to make it go away because the mark is too small to notice (or to click/ tap). Worse, when one try to click/ tap on the tiny ‘X’, they sometimes end up tapping the ad instead.
What are types of dark patterns? The Consumer Affairs Ministry has identified nine types of dark patterns being used by e-commerce companies.
  • False urgency: Creates a sense of urgency or scarcity to pressure consumers into making a purchase or taking an action.
  • Basket sneaking: Dark patterns are used to add additional products or services to the shopping cart without the user’s consent.
  • Confirm shaming: Uses guilt to make consumers adhere; criticises or attacks consumers for not conforming to a particular belief or viewpoint.
  • Forced action: Pushes consumers into taking an action they may not want to take, such as signing up for a service in order to access content.
  • Nagging: Persistent criticism, complaints, and requests for action.
  • Subscription traps: Easy to sign up for a service but difficult to quit or cancel; option is hidden or requires multiple steps.
  • Bait & switch: Advertising a certain product/ service but delivering another, often of lower quality.
  • Hidden costs: Hiding additional costs until consumers are already committed to making a purchase.
  • Disguised ads: Designed to look like content, such as news articles or user-generated content.
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