Bipartisan Group of US Senators Reintroduce Bill to Protect Consumers from Big Tech’s “Dark Patterns”

A bipartisan group of US Senators led by Mark R. Warner (D-VA) have reintroduced the Deceptive Experiences To Online Users Reduction (DETOUR) Act to combat the use of “dark patterns” by large online platforms. These deceptive user interfaces aim to manipulate consumers into sharing personal data without their informed consent.

Dark patterns refer to deliberately designed online interfaces that trick users into taking actions they wouldn’t have otherwise taken. Social media platforms often employ these tactics to mislead consumers into agreeing to settings and practices that benefit the company at the expense of user privacy.

The DETOUR Act, co-sponsored by Senators Deb Fischer (R-NE), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and John Thune (R-SD), seeks to put an end to this practice by prohibiting large online platforms with over 100 million monthly active users from using user interfaces that impair user autonomy or decision-making to obtain consent or user data. It also aims to prevent these platforms from using features that result in compulsive usage among children and teenagers.

The bill’s provisions include requiring large online operators to be transparent about behavioral or psychological experiments conducted on users and obtaining their informed consent for such experiments. It also mandates the creation of an internal Independent Review Board to oversee these practices and protect consumer welfare.

This is Warner’s third attempt at bringing the act to Senate. The DETOUR Act was first introduced in the 116th session, and then again in the 117th session last year. The reintroduction comes at a time of broader calls for more accountability in Big Tech.

The bill is part of a series of measures that Warner, a former tech entrepreneur, has introduced with the aim of pushing for more accountability in Big Tech. 

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Warner also recently introduced the following bills: 

  • ACCESS Act which would promote competition in social media by making it easier to transport user data to new sites. 
  • RESTRICT Act, which would comprehensively address the ongoing threat posed by technology from foreign adversaries
  • SAFE TECH Act, which would reform Section 230 and allow social media companies to be held accountable for enabling cyber-stalking, online harassment, and discrimination on social media platforms
  • Kids Online Safety Act, which would protect children online by providing young people and parents with the tools, safeguards, and transparency they need to protect against online harms. 

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Information for this story was found via Twitter, the Office of Senator Mark Warner, and the sources and companies mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to the organizations discussed. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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