Trump’s PAC Site Tricks Donors Into Recurring Charges With ‘Happy Birthday’ Dark Patterns

Home Technology Trump’s PAC Site Tricks Donors Into Recurring Charges With ‘Happy Birthday’ Dark Patterns
Trump’s PAC Site Tricks Donors Into Recurring Charges With ‘Happy Birthday’ Dark Patterns
Pre-clicked boxes on Trump’s website make signing up for recurring donations to his PAC opt-out, not opt-in.
Pre-clicked boxes on Trump’s website make signing up for recurring donations to his PAC opt-out, not opt-in.
Screenshot: DonaldJTrump.com

It’s tough out there being a Donald Trump supporter. He makes you and your fascist compatriots chant “toilet” at plague rallies, then he leaves thousands of you freezing in the cold with no way to return to the parking lot. He tells you to try and overthrow the U.S. government then gets stingy with the pardons. Then his website starts charging your bank account on a recurring basis by default, even though you only intended to donate to democracy’s downfall once.

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Business Insider first reported on Thursday that the donation page on Donald Trump’s website for his “Save America” political action committee (PAC) is trying to pull a fast one over on his supporters. The leadership PAC’s donation page automatically ticks two boxes that might go unnoticed while a user is trying to send Trump cash. The first reads, “Submit your name on the Official Founding Member Donor List by making this a monthly contribution!” The second box prompts users who send donations to help “surprise” the former president with a “RECORD BREAKING FUNDRAISING DAY” on his birthday on June 14 by donating the same amount again on that date.

Neglecting to uncheck these boxes would triple the amount Trump is able to debit a supporter’s bank account or payment card over the next month. For example, a user who sent in $500 today (June 10) without reading the fine print would be billed $500 again on June 15 and $500 again on July 10, as well as the 10th of every month after that.

This is a method that falls under the category of “dark patterns,” a broad umbrella of various technical and UI tricks that website and app operators use to mislead users into authorizing unforeseen or recurring charges, hand over personal data, sign up for contact lists, or any number of other things. Dark patterns are used by everyone from Amazon (making it difficult to stop a Prime subscription) to mobile game developers (making it as easy as possible to keep buying jewels). In this case, the pre-clicked boxes and the “wish Trump a happy birthday” banalities of the text make it easy to miss that the additional donations are opt-out, not opt-in.