Identifying dark patterns on the web


A very basic dark pattern is to incentivize users to invest more time in the app to “achieve” some result and feel good about themselves. Let us say Linkedin decided not to show the number of connections you have. That would be more natural (for “followers”, I kind of think it is fine to show, just as any newspaper’s readership). By showing how many connections you have, it motivates you to invest more time in building an artificial network you don’t need. Some people are immune to this. I know someone who is a very prominent and well-know business leader, who had a mere 40 connections (so, when he accepted my invite, I knew it was meaningful). But the vast majority of us just waste time building artificial networks, where 99% of our connections will never interact with us.

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Dark patterns are quite similar to efforts made by tobacco companies to make their products more addictive, through advertising and, allegedly, variations of their cigarettes formulae.

The massive settlement that was eventually reached is, while often criticized for being too lenient on the tobacco industry, a good example on how the authorities can rein in on tech companies’ manipulative practices.

I believe this legislative and judicial control is still work in progress, and tech companies pockets are so deep they don’t mind taking a chance to be fined. Awareness is the most immediate means the public has to stay away from all apps that don’t meet essential human technology criteria.


Dark patterns on Twitter:


It’s a guessing game… how many followers have I just gained? 1, 3, 4, or maybe even 5?

The correct number, of course, is just one. By the showing the text like this and even more user avatars (and the blue icon at the start of that), it all looks much more exciting than it is. Giving you a greater dopamine rush. Even when you find out, or already know that this type of notification is misleading.

BTW, I also notice that Twitter is giving me the same notifications multiple times. Particularly bad practice!


Confirm Shaming

Confirmation dialogs that try to shame you in following the preferred action. A beautiful article can be found here (thank you Brandon Dorn):

And an example from the same article:

Confirm Shaming Example

Many more examples (in fact 28 pages of them):

when a site asks you to sign up for their thing and then the

And this beauty I just found on Twitter:



Yeah, I’d rather bleed to death than seeing my blood drained for more data. Incredible!


A dark pattern on Facebook: A red dot that looks like a Notification hint, but really is not. It is enticing people to click on the Watch videos section, and the dot cannot be removed.


Found by @chrismessina on Twitter:

That red dot is an infuriating example of Facebook’s technomanipulation (I have unreads in every other category — they just want me to TRY to clear that dot (spoiler alert: you can’t)).


@Siddhi’s nice post Media Influence On...Speech and Debate led me to find a Dark Pattern on (and tweet about it too) in their Accept Cookies dialog:

Given this UI design most people that take the effort to click ‘Cookie Details’ will still be in danger of then clicking ‘Continue with Recommended Cookies’. This button is most prominent.

What is needed to go with ‘Necessary’ cookies is clicking the ‘Save’ button - that is easily overlooked - instead. Even after accepting ‘Necessary’ cookies only Privacy Badger indicates that there are seven 3rd-party trackers in the site. Besides Google Analytics some of these are directly involved in data collection for advertising.

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This is really interesting and informative.


Oye Linked In, how do they do it? They’ve actually convinced us to pay them to collect data on us :open_mouth:


Yes, but it is the data we think we want to share (not knowing the power of graph databases and other analysis gleaned from our network / feed interactions). It is crazy, in a way.


This thread is actually excellent for awareness building content. Is any member of this community a YouTube influencer? Or perhaps would like to become one? I have a campaign proposal for the community I am working on, something simple to pull off and reasonable considering we are all volunteering - but having an influencer on our side would be stellar and having simple videos dedicated to content mentioned in this thread has lots of viral potential.