UX design and neurological manipulation
The US Senate asked Zuckerberg whether he “hires consultants to tell [him] how to tap into dopamine feedback loops to keep people addicted.” He denied and confirmed that he did not know of any social media companies in the room that do. But would it be unlawful if they did? We have been researching whether there any specific laws prohibiting user experience design from engaging in emotional and neurological manipulation. We could not find any. We suspect that these effects are indistinguishable from the general premise of UX design and, as a result, would not be unlawful; for example, they would probably not amount to unlawful trade practices for which the US Fair Trading Commission had pressed charges against FB. In his book Hooked, (Stanford Prof and behavioral design expert) Nir Eyal promotes addictive UX design and explains how “through consecutive hook cycles, successful products reach their ultimate goal of unprompted user engagement, bringing users back repeatedly without costly advertising or aggressive messaging.” The unlikely hero in this book is the 29yo designer of the viral “Flappy Bird” game who after a few days of huge popularity and profit said that he could not take any more how addictive his game was and shut it down.