How captchas break democracy

The issue of captchas

Screendump of the captcha on the EU voting site. Four letters obscured by wavy lines, gradient background and varying contrast. The letters are g j g P.

Captchas harm more than they help

A captcha doesn’t test to see if I am human. It tests if I am a certain kind of human. And excludes others. It essentially raises a barrier for people with cognitive challenges, which includes people in stressful environments, people with language difficulties, dyslexia and illiteracy. And I won’t even get into people using assistive technology.

Pro tip

If you truly want to do better, the World Wide Web Consortium has a guide on the inaccessibility of captchas and alternatives to visual turing tests on the web. Variants of this guide have been published since almost two decades.



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Per Axbom

Per Axbom

Making tech safe and compassionate through design, coaching and teaching. Independent consultant. Co-host of UX Podcast. Primary publication: