Defending Against the Dark Arts: Recognising Dark Patterns in Social Media

Thomas Mildner, Merle Freye, Gian-Luca Savino, Philip R. Doyle, Benjamin R. Cowan, Rainer Malaka

Interest in unethical user interfaces has grown in HCI over recent years, with researchers identifying malicious design strategies referred to as ''dark patterns''. While such strategies have been described in numerous domains, we lack a thorough understanding of how they operate in social networking services (SNSs). Pivoting towards regulations against such practices, we address this gap by offering novel insights into the types of dark patterns deployed in SNSs and people's ability to recognise them across four widely used mobile SNS applications. Following a cognitive walkthrough, experts (N=6) could identify instances of dark patterns in all four SNSs, including co-occurrences. Based on the results, we designed a novel rating procedure for evaluating the malice of interfaces. Our evaluation shows that regular users (N=193) could differentiate between interfaces featuring dark patterns and those without. Such rating procedures could support policymakers' current moves to regulate deceptive and manipulative designs in online interfaces.

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