Dominique Kelly is a doctoral candidate in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at Western University. She holds a BA in Rhetoric and Professional Writing and an MA in Rhetoric and Communication Design from the University of Waterloo.
Dominique joined the LiT.RL team in May 2020. Her research interests include data privacy, social media, and behavioural economics. Currently, her research focuses on how user interface (UI) design tactics known as “dark patterns” influence users’ privacy choices online.
Watch Dominique’s recent presentation at the Social Media & Society Conference (2022). See peer-reviewed pre-print.
Dark patterns are user interface (UI) strategies deliberately designed to influence users to perform actions or make choices that benefit online service providers. This study examines how dark patterns are employed by social networking sites (SNSs) with the intent to deter users from disabling their accounts. We recorded our attempts to disable temporary accounts in 26 SNSs drawn from Alexa’s 2020 Top Sites list. As a result of our systematic content analysis of the recordings, we identified major types of dark patterns (Complete Obstruction, Temporary Obstruction, Obfuscation, Inducements to Reconsider, and Consequences) and unified them into a conceptual model, based on the differences and similarities within nuanced subtypes. We document their distribution in our sample SNSs, exemplifying dark UI design choices. Our findings provide empirical evidence for these pervasive – yet rarely discussed – strategies in the industry. Users who wish to discontinue using these sites – to protect their privacy, break an addiction, and/or improve their general well-being – may find it difficult or nearly impossible to do so.
Suggested citation: Kelly, D. & Rubin, V. L. (2022). Dark Pattern Typology: How Do Social Networking Sites Deter Disabling of User Accounts? 12th International Conference on Social Media & Society, July 18 -19, Toronto, Canada https://easychair.org/publications/preprint/GD6S