There is a widespread consensus that design practices involving psychological manipulation and deceit should be banned. However, when it comes to defining the concept of “dark patterns,” the challenge is to identify the line that separates legitimate user interface design from deceptive practices. It is crucial to have clear guidance based on robust research of what might constitute a dark pattern, assessing on a case-by-case basis the real impact and intention behind a practice. It is important to distinguish online persuasive design practices from deceptive ones to ensure the same commercial rights are granted to online businesses as to brick-and-mortar ones. Any initiative must be limited to “dark patterns” that are illegitimate. Regulators should not go for the easy way out and standardize online interfaces. A one-size-fits-all approach would not work for the variety of online services and harm competition among similar brands. In Europe, there is a well-equipped consumer acquis addressing “dark patterns.” Instead of adding another layer of measures, policymakers should focus on better and more consistent enforcement of existing rules.

By Victoria de Posson[1]



Practices such as pop-ups offering “free prizes,” false countdown timers promoting special deals, and automatic billing after a free trial without prior notification do not only manipulate users, but also significantly deteriorate their online experience. Many businesses


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