DETOUR Act Aims to Stop ‘Dark Patterns’

Supreme court

Dark patterns is a phrase used to refer to design practices companies use to manipulate you. The DETOUR Act wants to change that (via LA Times).


The DETOUR Act, or Deceptive Experiences to Online User Reduction, is bipartisan legislation from Senators. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.). It would empower the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to crack down on dark patterns.

screenshot of detour act

It would make it illegal to “to design, modify or manipulate a user interface with the purpose or substantial effect of obscuring, subverting or impairing user autonomy, decision-making or choice to obtain consent or user data;”, require websites to disclose “any form of behavioral or psychological research” and “any experiments” they employ to manipulate user behavior;” and create an independent review board to oversee “any behavioral or psychological research, of any purpose, conducted on users.”

Further Reading:

[DASHBOARD Act Could Reveal How Much Our Data is Worth]

[iWork 5.1 for iOS Brings an Text Styles, Face Detection, More]

3 thoughts on “DETOUR Act Aims to Stop ‘Dark Patterns’

  • My word, this country is a big sh*t show isn’t it? A clown for president pushing for a war nobody wants except the MIC and Oil; now this baloney??? Why don’t they just make industrial design and ALL advertising illegal? I know some members here actually don’t mind ads – but that shows the manipulation already done to their brains. Manipulation is the SOLE purpose of advertising and design and UI and indeed all of capitalism – this is a sick country.
    This is worse than banning Chinese 5g just because we can’t compete, crazy pathetic.

    1. We already have truth in advertising laws as well as laws against fraud. Perhaps if the FTC and courts simply applied those laws to online advertising and commerce then additional legislation would be unnecessary.

      Deceptive design seems like it is a type of fraud if it tricks you into “buying” something that you had no intention of purchasing, such as a $99/week subscription to some app or e-newsletter.

      If something is advertised as a “free download” but clicking on the button requires you to sign up for “offers” then that seems like it violates truth in advertising and might also be fraud.

    2. Many of the top-grossing iOS apps are casino-themed gambling games.

      They claim to not be gambling because you can’t win real money, but they are very good at extracting money from gamers’ pockets. At least in a real casino you can win real money and not fake in-game currency that you paid real money for!

      Perhaps the courts should examine whether these “free to play” games are deceptive, fraudulent, or gambling apps that should be regulated.

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