Weaponised design

August 30, 2018

Topic

Design  /  ,

When the web was relatively new, things were more of a free-for-all. Everything was an experiment, and it always felt like there were fewer consequences online, because not that many people really used the internet. Now a large portion of people’s lives are online. There is more at stake.

Tactical Tech focuses in on the (careless) design of systems that allows bad actors to thrive:

Design can also be weaponised through team apathy or inertia, where user feedback is ignored or invalidated by an arrogant, culturally homogenous or inexperienced team designing a platform. This is a notable criticism of Twitter’s product team, whose perceived lack of design-led response is seen as a core factor for enabling targeted, serious harassment of women by #Gamergate, from at least 2014 to present day.

Finally, design can be directly weaponised by the design team itself. Examples of this include Facebook’s designers conducting secret and non-consensual experiments on voter behaviour in 2012–2016, and emotional states of users in 2012, and Target, who in 2014 through surveillance ad tech and careful communications design, informed a father of his daughter’s unannounced pregnancy. In these examples, designers collaborate with other teams within an organisation, facilitating problematic outcomes whose impact scale exponentially in correlation with the quality of the design input.