back to article Menu mischief and interface deceit targeted by US lawmakers

The US government, in conjunction with a self-policing tech industry organization, will become an arbiter of web and application design, if a bipartisan bill introduced on Tuesday becomes law. US Senators Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Deb Fischer (R-NE) announced the Deceptive Experiences To Online Users Reduction (DETOUR) Act, …

  1. Notas Badoff

    What is A/B testing?

    "The bill prohibits segmenting consumers for behavioral experiments, ..."

    1. Ian Michael Gumby

      Re: What is A/B testing?

      Son, this is El Reg, Not Jeopardy.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Menu mischief and interface deceit targeted by US lawmakers

    Somehow my first and second read missed the word "by." We might have seen something more effective if that were so.

  3. Dvon of Edzore

    If Microsoft is for it, the bill must be broken by design

    Microsoft would never support any legislation that might result in the faintest shred of liability for their conduct. Attaching any liability for these standard industry practices, weak as this bill seems to be, would inevitably lead to strict liability for commercial software. Given those who are on board, this must really be a legal vaccine that lets the lawmakers claim to have done something but actually preventing any real action in the future.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If Microsoft is for it, the bill must be broken by design

      Do MSFT services still have 100m users/month on their _online_ services?

      They can cheer this on without much worry: they're not really in the online end-user business, and wherever they try, they don't do well. (Remember Bing? Skype might be the only end-user product vaguely relevant to the bill anymore. What's the business model there these days anyway?)

      And if you're selling enterprise-sized services, many of the reasons for dark UX fall away, because you can't sell upgrades to an individual staffperson anyway, and you're collecting money for your services anyway. Much easier to just have a 5% subscription cost increase every year, or to play the audit bully game.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why should they be exempt from liability from ad network partners?

    Make them liable for shenanigans by ad network partners would force them to choose ad networks more carefully, and include liability protection/insurance in their contracts. Letting them off the hook just means they'll engage third parties to do the bad things for them, and nothing will change.

  5. Mystic Megabyte


    I recently bought three quite expensive items on Amazon. So after spending hours identifying the items that suited my needs I got to the checkout. There's a whole page of "Join Amazon Prime" and no obvious way to skip past it. I must have spent five minutes looking at that page before finding the tiny link that got me to the payment page. As you may guess, I have no intention of giving Amazon regular payments for any service whatsoever.

    1. Ian Michael Gumby

      Re: Amazon

      But, but , but ... surely you wanted to join Amazon Prime so that you can get free 2nd Day shipping.

      My wife accidentally joined then called to complain and then un-joined Amazon Prime.

      For us, Amazon is the last choice when it comes to shopping.

      She'll go online and buy from the vendor direct, before Amazon.

      The blast isn't for the OP, but for Amazon because they, like Google are truly evil.

      1. Is It Me

        Re: Amazon

        Over here it is next day, and sometimes even same day delivery on Prime.

  6. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

    Hmm, there's a saying involving the words "pot", "kettle", and "black". So there is Microshaft, so well known for their honest and ethical outright dishonest attempts to persuade us to upgrade downgrade to Windows 10 - calling for regulation to block all the dishonest and unethical methods they used.

    But then we have to factor in a good dose of "left hand, would you like to know what right hand is doing ?" within a large organisation such as Microshaft.

    1. druck Silver badge

      What he said ^

      The Windows 10 upgrade dialog box, should be the absolute gold standard dark pattern for any new legislation.

  7. Eddy Ito

    As long as the bill still allows ad blockers and NoScript. I'm good. Hang on.

    Zuckerberg last month called for government officials to take a more active role in internet regulation.

    Well sure, nothing like raising the entry barriers to small potential competitors who can't afford an army of lawyers to ensure they remain inside the lines at all times. Then again he should be careful what he wishes for.

    It prohibits designs intended to "create compulsive usage" among children under 13.

    Will this apply to the babysitter games/apps on iPads?

  8. Mike Moyle

    "The bill applies to online services that have more than 100m monthly users."

    Do advertisers count as "users" of the ad networks for the purposes of this bill, or do people seeing their ads count?

    I assume that it's the former since the ad aggregators would be screaming bloody murder, otherwise. A lot of this could be solved by simply holding online advertisers to best practices and the easiest way to enforce that is to hold the ad networks responsible for the compliance of the ads that they host.

  9. whoseyourdaddy

    That first picture of the human face, with the extended nose and the dangling carrot.

    Can someone update that to be more... Trump?

    I would so pay money to see that.

  10. Chairman of the Bored
    Paris Hilton


    Typical lawyerly text. I like the intent, but the whole technical side of my brain keeps whispering the question, "In what way can one unambiguously or quantifiably determine a given UI is a dark pattern?"

    Reminds me of the struggles the Supreme Court has had defining pr0n. Justice Potter Stewart tried to explain "hard-core" pornography, by saying, "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced... [b]ut I know it when I see it ..."

    Paris because, the man saw it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lawyers

      > Typical lawyerly text. I like the intent, but the whole technical side of my brain keeps whispering the question, "In what way can one unambiguously or quantifiably determine a given UI is a dark pattern?"

      A simple test would be: any UI element that makes use of JavaScript is automatically a dark pattern.The fine should be proportional to the size of the JS.

  11. Mage Silver badge

    I'm amazed!

    It's a little worrying that the US lawmakers care. What is it a smokescreen for?

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