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Bermudian academic backs law preventing social media abuse

Bermudian education researcher Katie Davis

Bermudian education researcher Katie Davis has endorsed legislation before the Untied States Congress that would protect social media consumers from unknowingly handing over their personal data.

Dr Davis, an associate professor at the University of Washington, is a leading researcher on the effect of digital media on the development of children and teenagers.

Her third book, entitled Technology's Child: Digital Media's Role in the Ages and Stages of Growing Up, is due to be published by MIT Press in February and includes a section on the responsibility that big tech companies have in designing and managing safe digital environments.

She endorsed the Detour Act, which is a law that would prevent large online platforms from using deceptive user interfaces, known as “dark patterns,” to trick consumers into handing over their personal data.

She said: “The proposed legislation represents an important step towards reducing big tech companies’ use of dark patterns that prioritise user engagement over wellbeing.

“As a developmental scientist, I’m hopeful the Detour Act will encourage companies to adopt a child-centred approach to design that places children’s wellbeing front and centre, reducing the burden on parents to look out for and avoid dark patterns in their children’s technology experiences.”

The term “dark patterns” is used to describe online interfaces in websites and apps designed to intentionally manipulate users into taking actions they would otherwise not. These design tactics, drawn from extensive behavioural psychology research, are frequently used by social media platforms to mislead consumers into agreeing to settings and practices advantageous to the company.

The Detour Act would also prohibit large platforms from deploying features that encourage compulsive usage by children and from conducting behavioural experiments without a consumer’s consent.

A joint statement from the members of Congress supporting the bipartisan Bill said: “We are pleased to see growing momentum behind our bipartisan effort to ban these manipulative practices,” said the members of Congress today.

“There’s an increasing consensus in Congress that Americans should be able to make informed choices about handing over their data to large platform companies.”

Among the other endorsers of the legislation are the American Psychological Association, Mozilla, Common Sense, the Centre for Digital Democracy and the Centre for Countering Digital Hate.

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Published June 25, 2022 at 7:49 am (Updated June 25, 2022 at 7:49 am)

Bermudian academic backs law preventing social media abuse

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