FTC Dark Patterns Theory: Constitutional Line Crossed, warns IAB.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau Challenges FTC Complaint Against Amazon

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is pushing back against a complaint filed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against Amazon. The trade association is arguing that the FTC is trying to police truthful statements made in advertising based on what it calls “dark patterns.” In response, IAB filed an amicus brief in federal court, stating that a ruling in favor of the FTC could give the agency excessive authority to regulate commercial speech that is neither deceptive nor misleading – the legal standard for penalties.

What are “Dark Patterns”?

“Dark patterns” refer to a series of normal and lawful business practices that the FTC has grouped together under ominous buzzwords. According to IAB, in addition to criminalizing effective language, the FTC’s theory of dark patterns could also criminalize design elements such as size and color. As these are standard marketing practices, IAB notes that the FTC employs the same practices it alleges are violations of federal law.

The FTC’s Allegations and IAB’s Response

The FTC is alleging that consumers were convinced by an advertiser’s accurate description of a program’s benefits. IAB has defended the benefits of online marketing and advertising for U.S. consumers, as well as businesses. Both cases – the Amazon complaint and the proposed rules for negative options – are related to the use of online subscription practices. IAB has argued that a ruling in favor of the FTC could set a dangerous precedent.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is a trade association that empowers the media and marketing industries to thrive in the digital economy. The organization’s membership comprises more than 700 leading media companies, brands, agencies, and technology firms responsible for selling, delivering, and optimizing digital ad marketing campaigns. IAB is involved in critical research on interactive advertising and educates businesses on the importance of digital marketing.

The organization also develops technical standards and solutions through its affiliation with IAB Tech Lab, and is committed to professional development and elevating the skills, knowledge, expertise, and diversity of the workforce across the industry. Through its public policy office in Washington, D.C., IAB advocates for its members and promotes the value of the interactive advertising industry to legislators and policymakers.


IAB is strongly opposing the FTC’s allegations against Amazon, stating that the FTC’s theory of “dark patterns” could give the agency excessive control over commercial speech that is truthful and not misleading. The trade association argues that a ruling in favor of the FTC could criminalize standard and widespread marketing practices, setting a dangerous precedent. IAB is committed to defending the benefits of online marketing and advertising for U.S. consumers and businesses alike.

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