Internet users surfing from one website to another, or using various web-enabled applications, regularly encounter “dark patterns” — web-design choices that trick users into unknowingly providing more time, money, or attention than they realize. Dark patterns thus manipulate users, impairing their ability to exercise free choice and to express their actual preferences. Their use on the web is pervasive. Moreover, as artificial intelligence develops and as the “internet of things” rolls out, the ability and opportunity to manipulate and exploit consumers via dark patters will, predictably, increase. This article discusses various dark pattern techniques and explains the conditions accounting for their frequency of use in the digital space. Legislation prohibiting dark patterns and litigation challenging them as deceptive acts or practices are becoming available. However, dark patterns also have anti-competitive consequences, as they shift surplus from customers to suppliers, while also raising rivals’ costs to compete. Accordingly, antitrust enforcement should also be available to remedy these ubiquitous and pernicious online practices.

By Jay L. Himes & Jon Crevier1

As internet users surf from one website to another, or use web-enabled applications, they regularly — and unknowingly — encounter “dark patterns” — “the often unseen web-design choices that trick users into handing over more time, money, or attention than they realize.”2 Dar

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