Commercial Online Choice Architecture: When Roads Are Paved With Bad Intentions

Thomas Nys, Bart Engelen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Many people spend considerable amounts of time in online environments that are designed with the specific purpose of selling products or making money. In this chapter, we analyze whether and when such commercial online choice architectures (which we will dub COCAs) are manipulative, and what is potentially morally problematic about them. In our attempt to characterize manipulation, we will shift the attention from the means used to the intentions behind manipulative practices. In our view, there is no manipulation without intention. This conceptual point, we argue, has normative implications. Only by focusing on the goals that the purposeful design of COCAs hopes to achieve, and how they relate to the goals of their users, can we get a grip on the moral worries they raise. These are twofold. First, these commercial ends may not align with and thus potentially undermine users’ personal autonomy. Second, even if the ends of COCA designers and users do align, the former could still be indifferent towards the personal autonomy of the latter.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Philosophy of Online Manipulation
EditorsFleur Jongepier, Michael Klenk
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781003205425
ISBN (Print)9781032030012
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022


  • Commercial Online Choice Architecture
  • Manipulation
  • Personal autonomy


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