DARK PATTERN (Syllabus: GS Paper 2 – Governance)

News-CRUX-10     28th November 2023        

Context: Recently, the government has taken decisive steps to address the growing issue of e-commerce companies misleading consumers into making unintended decisions by specifying penalties and tightening regulations on unfair trade practices in the digital business sector.

  • The government chose to delineate the penalties because the existing consumer protection law does not explicitly identify 'dark patterns' as an unfair practice, despite its extensive coverage of all deceptive practices and misrepresentations within a broad scope.

Dark Pattern

  • About: Dark patterns, also known as deceptive patterns, refer to the tactics employed by websites or apps to lead users into unintended actions or discourage behaviors that are unfavourable for the companies.
  • Coined by: Harry Brignull, a user experience (UX) designer in 2010, this term encapsulates the strategies used by platforms to manipulate user behavior.
  • Examples: Intrusive ads that are difficult to dismiss, often due to tiny, hard-to-find "X" buttons, leading users to accidentally click on the ad instead.

Use of Dark Patterns

  • Social media companies and Big Tech firms such as Apple, Amazon, Skype, Facebook, LinkedIn, Microsoft, and Google use dark or deceptive patterns to downgrade the user experience to their advantage.
  • In social media, LinkedIn users often receive unsolicited, sponsored messages from influencers.
  • Dark pattern in India: Section 2(9)(v) of Consumer Protection Act, 2019 provides for consumer’s right to seek redressal against unfair trade practice or restrictive trade practices or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers.