U.S. bill tackles social media ‘dark patterns’

Two U.S. senators introduced a bill to ban online social media companies like Facebook and Twitter from tricking consumers into giving up their personal data. Freddie Joyner reports.

“I think many Americans think services like Facebook and Google are free. They’re not free at all. They are draining information out of you and then selling that on the marketplace…”

That was Democratic senator Mark Warner who is working with Republican Deb Fischer to ban social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter from tricking consumers into giving up their personal data.

A bill they introduced this week tackles a technique known as ‘dark patterns.’


“This is where social media and other entities use frankly disruptive and deceptive practices to get you as a user to do things that you might not otherwise do.”

Misleading prompts to just click the ‘OK’ button can often transfer your contacts, messages, browsing activity, photos, or location information without you even realizing it.

The proposed legislation is part of a rising tide of proposed regulation on social media, much of it focused on hate speech.

Just this week, the U.K. proposed fines for failing to block damaging content such as terrorist propaganda or images of child abuse, while Australia proposed sweeping regulation threatening huge fines for social media companies and jail for their executives if they fail to rapidly remove “abhorrent violent material” from their platforms.

New restrictions – particularly on how social media companies collect consumer data – could cost tech giants millions in advertising dollars each year.

Something senator Warner thinks may not be such a bad thing…


“I think we need to make sure as consumers we know how much information is being collected and how much that information may be worth to the Facebook or the Google. So there might be new companies that could then come in and maybe disrupt some of these tech giants.”

Besides regulating ‘dark patterns,’ the bill would also ban online platforms with more than 100 million monthly active users from designing addictive games for children under the age of 13, and would bar companies from choosing groups of people for behavioral experiments unless the companies get informed consent.

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