An industry group representing several major U.S. tech companies, including Apple, Google, Meta, Amazon, and X (formerly Twitter), has expressed opposition to the Indian government’s proposal to regulate dark patterns on online platforms. The Asia Internet Coalition argues that the proposed rules may hinder the growth of India’s digital economy and create regulatory overlap with existing laws, potentially impacting the ease of doing business in the country.
Dark patterns are deceptive design techniques used by online companies to manipulate or deceive users. The Indian government released draft guidelines to prevent and regulate dark patterns, seeking public feedback on these rules to address unethical practices by online companies in their user interfaces.
The industry group has recommended that the Indian government rely on the existing self-regulatory framework to curb the use of dark patterns and avoid introducing a separate regulatory framework. They argue that online platforms in India are already regulated under various existing laws, including the Information Technology Act 2000, Consumer Protection Act 2019 rules, and the Digital Personal Data Protection Act 2023.
The Asia Internet Coalition suggests that if a separate framework is deemed necessary, it should be sector and medium-agnostic, applicable to both online and offline content and advertisements. They also propose a sufficient buffer period between the publication and implementation of the proposed rules and protection of safe harbor provisions available in the IT Act. They argue that online intermediary platforms, including e-commerce marketplaces, should not be held responsible for dark patterns present in third-party content and advertisements hosted by them.
The group also calls for the definition of the term “endorser” in the rules to address instances of dark patterns through disguised advertisements, including endorsements by influencers and celebrities.
The Indian government has identified various dark patterns, such as false urgency, basket sneaking, confirm shaming, forced action, subscription traps, interface interference, bait and switch, and drip pricing, and aims to regulate them. However, the Asia Internet Coalition argues that these practices are already considered “unfair” under existing laws and internal policies of online platforms and digital service providers.
India, as one of the world’s largest markets for internet users, is increasingly implementing regulations on the digital economy. The government is planning to replace its two-decade-old IT law with the Digital India Act, which is expected to address concerns related to dark patterns, as well as introduce new rules on cybersecurity, data management, and emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and blockchain.