The same holds true for e.g. smoking. The idea is to prevent exposure to the still developing brain (psuedo-arbitrarily defined as under 18), and that exposure after this age is purely an informed descision by a consenting adult. Should legislation require that __all__ exploitative mechanisms be banned forever?
I don’t think that any business that makes money by taking advantage of people’s foolishness or stupidity has any particular moral right to be free from regulation. Caveat emptor and all that, but if you cause enough damage to enough people, it stops being an individual’s problem and starts being society’s problem. We’re 100% there with social media.
> I don’t think that any business that makes money by taking advantage of people’s foolishness or stupidity
I think this is a touch unfair to people at large. The common end user isn't keen enough to recognize dark patterns, that's true, but that's akin to saying that the average car buyer should be able to spot flaws in a vehicle that could cause them harm. We don't expect that from people; Car companies are mandated to only sell vehicles that meet safety requirements. And even then, it's generally accepted that when you're buying a used vehicle, you take it to a mechanic you trust to make sure it's well cared for and operational. Same as when you buy a home; you're expected to have it inspected.
It's also unfair, I think, to put people down as foolish or stupid for not immediately recognizing things that are psychological tricks companies use in marketing, to steer users towards the options they want the users to choose. I mean caveat emptor indeed, but to say that, for example fast food marketers holding PHD's in psychological studies, working day in and out to get people to be hungry anytime they see a McDonalds logo are on an even playing field with Joe Consumer is a laughable assertion on it's face.
In the days of yore, marketing was just trying to sell someone something but it's become much more insidious since those innocent times. Now companies use dark patterns in their applications, purposely bury privacy and security options under layers of confusing UI, use all manor of colors and fonts shown to steer people's attention to the goal they want, on and on. This is why I find it so unethical, it feels a hell of a lot less like marketing and lot more like "hacking" a person's brain to get into their wallet.
tl:dr; Joe Consumer is playing checkers, and marketing scientists are playing 3D chess. He doesn't stand a chance and everyone just keeps acting like that's okay.
Not a parent poster, but I think main point still holds. Maybe I would state it differently.
Even if you say 'taking advantage of limited cognitive ability of people' which is true, because everyone is busy, having life problems and is bombarded with all that crap. It makes people stupid, and that is not something to say about particular person.
So second part is about making damage while taking advantage of that created stupidity, which is the same as thieves taking advantage of someone after 12 hour trip. People get tired and do stupid things like not watching their luggage. That is the same as taking advantage of online tiredness, it is also foolishness.
Marketing with McDonalds does not make people hungry, that is of course not the way it works. But when people are hungry and see McDonalds logo, they don't think about alternatives but just go for that option. I fell for that multiple times, when I am tired, I am not going to search for some small restaurant that can have better food. It can turn out that there is one, but food is total crap, so I am not taking chances but going for McD. Getting me tired and hungry to pay them money is taking advantage of my temporary stupidity and foolishness. They have scale and are everywhere so it might look innocent.
> Even if you say 'taking advantage of limited cognitive ability of people' which is true, because everyone is busy, having life problems and is bombarded with all that crap. It makes people stupid, and that is not something to say about particular person.
That I'd agree with, that it makes people stupid. That's better.
> Marketing with McDonalds does not make people hungry
But it does. The color red has been linked many times to feelings of hunger, most likely because our brains link it to both the color of fresh berries and the color of slaughtered meat. That's why nearly every fast food chain uses a significant amount of red in their packaging: McDonalds, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Topper's Pizza, Wendy's, Hardees, Carls' Jr., the list is nearly infinite. It's not a coincidence.
And that's the relatively low-tech tactics, not even going into how the engineer the taste of the food to be just right, how the burgers in the ads look absolutely nothing like the product you receive, all the way up to the fact that fast food is laden with sugar unnecessarily to make it literally addictive, since the brain responds to sugar in a very similar way to cocaine.
Again, this stuff exists on a very large spectrum from stuff that's innocuous but very effective, all the way to the stuff that was cooked up in laboratories by extremely smart people to manipulate the general populace into buying their products.
That's not a fair comparison because some people want to smoke. No one wants to be the victim of dark UI patterns. No one wants "share all my data by default please." No one wants to click on a deceptive ad that looks like the download button.
Guess HN needs to banned then. Their news feed is designed to exploit my need for novelty and it works. I'm here far more than I should be. I guess I should expect the government to regulate HN to save me from it's exploitative patterns
I don't see it to be honest. The website is plain and simple, downvotes are capped, the scores are not visible. I spent significantly less time here than on other forms of social media, and I never feel glued to the website.
What part of the HN design appears to you exploitative? It's much more like an old school web forum than a gamified social website.
This will only be a temporary issue which will disappear with the generation which will resist the most. Most behavioural changes and changes to the norm just need to wait until the first generation dies out and to all subsequent generations this will be the only norm they ever knew. A great example is smoking in public places in Europe. The people who think this restricts their freedom is slowly disappearing. Most young people and new generations find it normal that smoking in public places is prohibited and they would resist if someone was to try to change that now.
It definitely sounds odd to my younger colleagues when I explain what it was like when people smoked in pubs by default.
There may be a difference here in that lots of people disliked smoking/smokers/their clothes smelling after going to a pub, perhaps more than there are who dislike the concept of facebook likes manipulating their behaviour more than they like the rewards that likes bring them.
Gating content based on age isn't really about preventing access to it. Gating content (on most any basis) is more about blame-deflecting and CYA: make sure you're not the one to be fingered as the responsible party when the "they should have done something!" hysteria hits.
If something is for adults only, require payment or something. Afaik, you can't get a debit or credit card under 18 without parental approval, so this should lie firmly on the shoulders of parents. However, parents don't like getting blamed for being bad parents.
If my child gets access to adult only stuff, that's my fault.
What you are saying is essentially that all restrictions based on age are invalid because some people will manage to circumvent those rules.
We have significant, long term, data that age restrictions reduced the use of alcohol and tobacco.
What has changed, in the modern era of internet age restrictions, is that the enforcement of age restrictions online has been reduced.
For example, online pornography has massive numbers of users under 18, but there has been little enforcement by law enforcement agencies.
The solution is quite simple. If a person under the age of 18 is in possession of an application that is prohibited for minors and the company that creates that application fails to verify their age, then the company should face criminal charges, just like we do with tobacco and alcohol.
To say that age restrictions do not work is to ignore almost a century of public policy.
I'm simply stating that it is indeed possible to restrict online content based on age. When you buy alcohol or pornography at a store, you are required to show identification. I'm not sure why that is suddenly a terrible thing to do when that service is provided over the internet.
With regards to social platforms, I think we need to consider the health of people under 18, just like we do in the real world. If we indeed decide as a democracy, that certain types of social media content are significantly harmful to children, then I think it is our responsibility as adults to impose certain things upon ourselves that may be uncomfortable.
I have gone to the beach and realized that I had left my wallet(and ID) in the car and was unable to purchase alcohol or be let into a bar. We as a democracy have decided that is a reasonable price to pay for protecting children from alcohol abuse.
If age verification were required to access online content, plenty of online services would be available as a third party to verify your age without requiring you to show every website and application your government ID. For example Apple might verify your age and relay that to a website. Or possibly your credit card company or some other new company which provided that service. PayPal for age verification.
I should qualify that I'm not sure we should impose these age restrictions on social platforms, I'm am instead commenting on the feasiblility of such an action.
The costs are different in the internet. At a bar, a human looks at your ID, then gives it back to you. On the internet, there's no way your ID doesn't get recorded in a log somewhere, in a central store where all ID checks you ever do get recorded.
The preponderance of evidence indicates there is an inverse relationship between the MLDA[minimum legal drinking age] and two outcome measures: alcohol consumption and traffic crashes. 
Correct, but in the case of a website or a phone application, the producer of the application or website is also the provider. There is no reason why a pornography site could not be held criminally responsible for distributing pornography to minors.
The way we enforce this with alcohol and tobacco is that law enforcement runs a test were they attempt to purchase alcohol or tobacco from a store with a minor. Law enforcement can run a similar process where they attempt to access pornography(or other age restricted content) and if the site or application fails to restrict usage, apply crimial charges.
There is certainly public debate as to if we should use age restrictions on certain features of Facebook, but to say that enforcement is impossible, seems to contradict the data we have with other age restrictions.
The preponderance of evidence indicates there is an inverse relationship between the MLDA[minimum legal drinking age] and two outcome measures: alcohol consumption and traffic crashes. 
So true. I was surprised to learn that kids are using the "commenting" feature in Google Docs to message each other in class in a way that they don't get caught using their phones. This laws can't have teeth unless they're specific and people will just invent new things and paths don't violate the law. If parents are worried, they should worry more about their own kids and parenting them the way they'd like.
I think getting around things like age restrictions and parent supervision is an important experience growing up, but I'm afraid kids these days are less adept with computers than their parents and won't be able to.
I know one 14yo who complains about not being able to see restricted content on youtube and also believes her parents can see her history even if she erases it.
Just because you were able to do it when you were a kid, doesn't mean other kids will be able to. You're posting on HN with a "linuxasheviller" handle, that makes you an outlier.
Also, these kinds of ultra-detailed technocratic rules tend to be bureaucratic disasters. The UK government is now going to be going feature-by-feature of every social media system and deciding whether it should be age-gated?
I don't agree with that statement for "every teenage kid ever". Most kids appreciate separation from adult attention and accompanying concerns, responsibilities, passions, conflicts...
When a boundary is set at 18, its true that many youths approaching that age will look with great interest beyond it. But child friendly networks are important and valuable to children, while they can be children.
Some of this is definitely good. Requiring companies to use plain and truthful language when describing privacy-affecting settings is a great step, and apps/services shouldn't try to hide the "continue without enabling" button.
With that said, requiring different rules for children seriously increases barriers to entry for new services hoping to attract users in areas where these rules take effect, and kids will ALWAYS find ways around it. Nudges like snap streaks and the Like button encourage daily active use, but they also encourage actual social interaction between people to some degree.
Additionally, nudges like the Like button or Snapstreaks, though they do encourage a potentially unhealthy relationship with technology, also encourage social interaction with peers. It's certainly more complicated than "these are bad!"
I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. Until about a year ago I myself was one of the under 18’s and although I myself have never had a “streak” or used social media much in general I do have some experience with these kind of things because I see my friends and peers partake in these kind of things. What I mostly see is that the upkeep of a streak consists of sending a black photo with some text on it like “goodnight” and then it being sent to dozens of people. Not much comes from it other than maintaining a streak.
So not a lot of social interraction in that case, more so a reward for substanceless and ultimately unrewarding behaviour. Even more so, I saw my peers getting distracted from actual social interaction IRL by these kind of things.
I don’t think social interaction has anything to do with things like streaks or other addictive nudges. I think the most that is needed for social interaction is a chat client (or voice for that matter) and the ability to send photo’s or use a webcam. It shouldn’t be more than that. Other things often get in the way of real social interaction be it online or offline.
I'm definitely guilty of the blank picture solely for streaks. For me, the value comes from a feeling of connection when keeping a streak, mostly with friends I barely ever see. There are people that I've only really met once at events etc., but we
have remained acquaintances through these 'substanceless' conversations over Snapchat. If I ever travel and end up near these friends I wouldn't hesitate to message them to hang out, where as if we never started a streak I'd most likely never see them again.
I've never liked keeping in touch with people over the internet, but 'streaks' lets me do it with dozens of people without sinking in hours of my time for conversation.
Do they really encourage social interaction? From what I can tell, they're pretty much just an addictive feature.
If you want to encourage social interaction, promote less popular content. If you promote more popular content, then it becomes a popularity contest. Services want more eyeballs on their platform, so there's no way they'd promote less popular content because people will switch to a platform that gives them the reward for being popular.
It always ends up with "we do something to make your experiences better", to "help us continually protect and improve your experience", etc.
I'll be rather explaining along the lines "we're a corporation, we have shares to sustain and employees to pay, so we're going to milk you and your personal information for our sole benefit. You have to know that it will be better for you if you don't make it easy for us to do so".
Interesting white-hat application of behavioral economics. It's no surprise this is happening in UK.
Based on Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler's book "Nudge," the UK set up a behavioral economics team charged with helping British subjects interact with their government. They had some notable successes. That's now called The Behavioural Insights Team. https://www.bi.team/ It's possible their national experience led them to adopt new rules against black-hat UX (tiny gray opt-out buttons, etc.)
User experience standards based on behavioral economics principles might be a very productive route to improving social media. It's CERTAINLY worth a try.
So, you provide your ID to everyone you have a social interaction with?
For example, there's someone I've known for about two years and talk to regularly, we know a fair bit about eachother's lives. I was thinking the other day though and realized, we've never introduced ourselves to to eachother. We've never actually told eachother our names, yet every time we see eachother we talk like old friends.
Or there's plenty of parties where i've socially interacted with people without ever knowing or giving a name.
For the most part, at least partial anonymity is up to the choice of the participants for in person social interaction, why should the internet be different?
It's not like most privately owned public spaces require ID for you to talk to people inside of them. Bars and such I guess being an exception, but that's because they serve liquor and some bars depending on where you are or what event will actually still allow minors in without serving them, so they could technically interact. My first concert was at an all ages show in a bar as a teenager.
>For the most part, at least partial anonymity is up to the choice of the participants for in person social interaction, why should the internet be different?
the internet isn't different. But Facebook isn't 'the internet', Facebook is a commercial public platform. I fully expect to not be anonymous when I engage with any commercial platform,be it online or offline, the only places where I expect full anonymity are places I own, where no liability or implications for third parties exist.
You can have those on the internet, but they're not commercial, centralised social media websites where people, with their posts, face the public. Facebook in this example is exactly like a bar or a townsquare, and not like my private home.
Despite many posts criticising the recommendations, the ICO _doesn't recommend age verification_ as a solution.
From the actual document:
> 2. Age-appropriate application: Consider the age range of your audience
and the needs of children of different ages. Apply the standards in this
code to all users, unless you have robust age-verification mechanisms to
distinguish adults from children.
The commissioner is saying that the companies should make the sites adhere to the rules covering children, with a get out IF some new age verification system could be developed.
What are people's expectations of the effectiveness and the iatrogenics of this policy?
Before alcohol prohibition in the United States, most alcohol consumption was low-proof/ABV drinks (such as beers). The introduction of prohibition attenuated some demand for alcohol but created a black market for those still wishing to consume. Black-market suppliers shifted alcohol production to higher ABV/proof alcohols to mitigate risks and increase profits. The results was increased consumption in spirits and other more damaging alcohols.
The same phenomenon occurred during the US's 1970s "War on Drugs" milder drugs such as cannabis were outlawed, suppliers shift to more profitable and potent drugs, consumer preferences change, more addictive and damaging drugs are consumed (e.g. Fentanyl).
Social-media moralizers "save the children" with prohibitions -> marginal demand is attenuated but persists -> satisfaction is attained through less preferable way to the individual.
Humans are risk averse given relative options. Given the choice they will opt for the least damaging vice satisfier. Denied that option, preference shifts up the risk ladder. I don't think social media is healthy or advisable without moderation but the "solutions" will cause more harm than if left alone.
A treatment that's beneficial on the individual level is all but guaranteed to be detrimental on the aggregate: "The country's average mass is overweight! Everyone is now mandated to skip one meal a day until we are at an acceptable weight" kills malnourished people
But while spirits became a larger share of alcohol consumed, "per capita annual consumption [immediately after the repeal of prohibition] stood at 1.2 US gallons (4.5 liters), less than half the level of the pre-Prohibition period". Likewise, "[d]eath rates from cirrhosis and alcoholism, alcoholic psychosis hospital admissions, and drunkenness arrests all declined steeply". In short, prohibition worked as a public health policy.
You can't just point out that something will cause unintended consequences. You have to actually weight them against the benefits the policy provides. Obviously fewer potheads for more heroin addicts was a bade trade, but fewer cigarette smokers for a slightly larger black market has proven to be a great one. We haven't seen the nicotine equivalent of fentanyl your "risk ladder" model predicts.
> A treatment that's beneficial on the individual level is all but guaranteed to be detrimental on the aggregate: "The country's average mass is overweight! Everyone is now mandated to skip one meal a day until we are at an acceptable weight" kills malnourished people
This Ayn Rand fever dream ignores the fact that the government has tons of policies that are beneficial on the individual level: banning trans fats, mandating nutrition labels, and taxing sodas just to name a few.
>the government has tons of policies that are beneficial on the individual level: banning trans fats, mandating nutrition labels, and taxing sodas just to name a few.
Listing the benefits of a policy while neglecting the iatrogenics is precisely my point about the complexity dynamics. Before a treatment, it is unknowable how adding another domain will effect all the other domains.
Take a hypothetical policy of weekly fire-sprinkler checks being instituted. As a result 3% of all systems were nonfunctional but repaired! But this neglects the inspections also caused a chilling effect of people behavior ("Sorry Anne Frank, I can't take you in as a refugee because there's an increased likely hood that the police will find you now that they started doing sprinkler checks")
Would you take a drug without someone certifying it's side effects first? Why do the same with policy?
> We haven't seen the nicotine equivalent of fentanyl your "risk ladder" model predicts.
Only if you're looking at that end of the risk ladder. On the other end are vaping products like Juul that (while not perfect) are far safer than smoking. And, what do you know, there is increasing pressure to ban them as well. In the interest of not going off in the weeds, I won't even approach the deficits of government nutrition policies or soda taxation attempts.
You're ignoring the time period it all took place. Irresponsible drinking probably skyrocketed during the Gilded Age and Great Depression. It should be no surprise that people stopped drinking so much when everything started getting better - which aligned closely with the end of prohibition.
It's interesting to understand what is happening internally in these social media companies engaging in blatantly shady and unethical behavior.
Its more than weird that inspite of HN being a place where many of these individuals are there is little to no discussion on the actual forces and pressures at work driving these decisions, are there ethical dilemmas, difficult decisions? Because there is nearly nothing on this discussion wise or whistle blowers that would suggest this is something people working inside these companies are grappling with.
If this does not concern engineers its unlikely discussion on issues being raised by outsiders and regulatory bodies are going to lead to any kind of productive discussion beyond dilution and denial.
Well the article says:
To ensure its success, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) says that online services must also adopt "robust" age-verification systems.
My guess is they'll ask for a valid credit card before allowing users to access the interface for likes and such. Which, IMO anyway, means many less people will be liking things in the UK, not just under-18's. Then some clever kid will find a way to get around it and before you know it the only people liking anything will be kids under 18.
It's the streetlight fallacy, in other words: The drunk doesn't know where those damn car keys have gotten to, but they know that the only place the light's good enough to look is under the streetlight, so the keys must be under the streetlight.
Not sure about the UK, but in the US you can get a bank account and debit card when your parents co-sign as early as age 14 (Bank of America). Is age something merchants get back from Visa/MC when you make a transaction?
Banks will often have multiple BIN's assigned to them. When I was last in the industry ~10 years ago, it was typical to use the BIN to identify specific types of card within an institution, so it wasn't uncommon to see a single institution with multiple BINs.
Something like that could be used to filter out such cards, if they were assigned a unique BIN by the bank. As to whether anyone actually _does_ that, I don't know.
I don't think the age verification systems used online will accept a debit card though and I don't think you can get a real credit card under 18 even with a parent authorizing or co-signing.
Even though a debit card acts like a credit card under most circumstances where your available balance is effectively your "credit" limit but there are ways of telling the difference between a debit/check card and a real credit card.
The merchant can definitely see whether a card is a debit card or a credit card. The charge structure and chargeback rules are different.
A debit card is to spend money you already own, hence why a 14 year old or younger can have one.
A credit card creates a debt - and in the UK debts incurred below the age of 18 are unenforceable in court. So no one will issue a credit card to a person under 18.
Or they can just ask? I would have no trouble helping my son work around dumb rules. "Here's another one of those situations where lying is appropriate. I hope you're learning to be a good judge of when it is and isn't. Yes, adults are pretty stupid sometimes."
As his guardian you limit your son's ability to legally retaliate in the future against possible coercive actions offered by said corporations, with its sole intention to form an addictive dependency to its users.
It's like buying your son cigarettes. This shifts the responsibility from the supplier to the enabler (you).
Will we in the near future reflect on this digital period, similar to how we now reflect on the era of dominance of cigarette manufacturers?
I triggered on "work around dumb rules". Large institutions consulted by legal and behavioural experts, backed by decades of research come to the conclusion to severely restrict the effects of persuasive design on children. Taking the time to reflect on both sides of the argument without dismissing it as 'dumb rules', would be my interpretation of responsible guardianship.
As we speak, persuasive design experts, applying behavioural psychology are having wreaking measureable, wide-scale deleterious effects on our youngest generation.
Yes, I agree we should teach our children about these systems of control. At the same time, we should acknowledge that the effects are spanning wide ranges of our population, regardless of age, sex, income class and education level. Our society needs stronger controls to counter decades of psychological and sociological research, designed and funded for offensive purposes (psy-ops).
On the one side we have corporate interests looking to exploit everything they are not barred from exploiting and piously declaring that not exploiting things they are not barred from exploiting is failing in their mission.
On the other side we have governments trying with varying degrees of success to add regulations on this stuff that most lawmakers do not understand.
As a parent, you cannot just rely on the government. Some regulations are good. Some don't go far enough. Some are kind of dumb.
There’s never been anything like the mass psyops of the past 100 years, and it’s not clear that such toxic memetic behavior can coexist with society. We’ve only seen three generations of impact, but it seems the deleterious effects are outpacing our ability to adapt.
It’s possible PR will trigger a memetic mass extinction event.
I’d encourage people here who work in marketing, public relations, or social media to seriously consider the systemic effects of what they’re doing.
what is stupid about wanting to protect your kids from being preyed upon by corporations who are paying teams of psychologists and coders to keep your kid in their app for as long as possible? do you think children fully understand that is being done to them, and the ramifications of it?
i think parents ought to be able to decide what’s best for their kids, but see no problem with making this policy enabled by default.
of course a lot of people on HN have no kids, and have an income that depends on them believing like buttons and A/B testing children to maximize their app usage can’t possibly have a psychological effect on them.
At least one of the age verification services being tested just validates the card number is formatted correctly (Twitter users have found out of date cards work very well). No need to sneak the cards when you can just google one tbh.
I would say the best compromise would be something along the lines of having to send them government ID (which brings up a whole other ball of wax with privacy/data retention issues) - most teenagers might get a drivers license at 15-16 which I would subjectively say is close enough to adulthood to avoid these literal popularity contests online.
What would be the best way to capitalize from a personal investment standpoint in what I can only imagine will be massive growth in VPN usage? The EU and UK are going to end up cutting off large swaths of the internet from their population but I have no doubt people will still want unfettered internet access.
Don't view any such purchase as a long term investment. It probably won't be long before the UK government demands that ISPs block all VPN usage. It looks increasingly likely that many western countries will soon be taking a Chinese-style approach towards the internet. There's always some small benefit to restricting liberty, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Predictions are typically made by looking at recent trends and then extrapolating from there. It would take some time, but I could provide you with a bunch of links to reputable news sources on this subject. Instead, to save time, let's go with a one page summary of the new internet censorship that is being proposed (or is already taking place) in some western countries in just the past month:
CloudFlare were extremely vague about where the end points of their VPN service would occur though. They said it "wasn't intended for circumventing geofiltering", which is fair enough, but that suggests it would have end points in your own country. In which case it's unlikely to be helpful against the UK's increasingly insane, authoritarian government.