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The dark pattern on the internet: How companies are tricking their users

GS Paper 3

Syllabus: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers


Source: TH

 Direction: The article tries to explain the meaning of a relatively new term – Dark pattern on the internet.

 Context: Some Internet-based firms have been tricking users by deploying “dark patterns,” which are also known as “deceptive patterns.”

What are dark patterns?

  • Naming: The term is credited to UI/UX (user interface/user experience) researcher and designer Harry Brignull, who has been working to catalogue such patterns and the companies using them since around 2010.


  • Meaning:
    • These are unethical UI designs that deliberately make one’s internet experience harder or even exploit them and benefit the company or platform employing the designs.
    • Uninformed users would not have accepted such terms or clicked URLs (uniform resource location) if digital platforms had not utilised deceptive tactics.
    • Such acceptances and clicks flood consumers’ inboxes with promotional emails they never wanted, making it difficult to unsubscribe or request deletion.
    • The Federal Trade Commission of the US listed over 30 dark patterns, many of which are considered standard practice across social media platforms and e-commerce sites.
      • These include making cancellation buttons hard to see or click, making ads appear as news reports or celebrity endorsements, etc.


  • Example:
    • Amazon was criticised in the EU for their confusing, multi-step cancelling process for Amazon Prime subscriptions.
    • Amazon simplified the cancelling process for online customers in European countries this year after consulting with consumer regulators.

What do users stand to lose because of dark patterns?

  • Digital platforms take away a user’s right to full information about the services they are using and reduce their control over their browsing experience.
  • Endanger the experience of internet users and make them more vulnerable to financial and data exploitation by Big Tech firms.
  • Confuse users, introduce online obstacles, and make simple tasks time-consuming.
  • Force them to pay more money or share more personal information.


Way ahead: Internet users who are able to identify and recognise dark patterns in their daily lives can choose more user-friendly platforms that will respect their right to choose and privacy.