Moral obligations to view advertising?


in Daily updates, Geek stuff, Internet matters, Law

Ashley Thorvaldson and Brian Mulrooney

Normal users of the internet are frequently confronted with banner ads: often obnoxious graphics trying to hock all manner of products and services. More sophisticated users will now find themselves a bit surprised, when using a public computer, because they long ago stopped seeing these displays on their own machines. This trick is achieved through the use of the Firefox browser, the AdBlock plugin, and Filterset G. With these three pieces of code running, the vast majority of graphically based ads on the internet simply vanish.

Now, an editorial on CNet suggests that using such technology may be immoral. In effect, web sites are providing you with content in exchange for your pupils grazing ever-so-briefly across the advertisements that pay their bills.

While I don’t feel convinced one way or the other about the moral issues involved in this particular case, it is an interesting kind of moral problem. The nature of what is ‘theft’ in a digitized world remains an intensely disputed one. This is the fundamental product of going for a world where products cost a significant amount per unit (with additional costs for design) to one where things may cost a lot to design, but can often be copied for free. That goes for everything from pop CDs to New York Times editorials, and dealing with it is one of the more interesting legal and business issues of the present time.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

R.K. August 30, 2008 at 10:02 pm

Do you feel differently now that you have Google Ads of your own?

Milan August 30, 2008 at 10:42 pm

I don’t feel differently.

If people want to block any form of content being provided by a website, they should feel free to do so.

. February 23, 2009 at 9:46 pm

Add-Art: replace web ads with art

By Foci for Analysis on firefoxAddons

Add-Art is a free FireFox add-on which replaces advertising on websites with curated art images. The art shows are updated every two weeks and feature contemporary artists and curators.

. March 13, 2009 at 10:21 am

unClick Google
We can force Google to stop their privacy violations while ridding the internet of advertising… by clicking ads.

On March 11, Google revealed its latest plan to violate your privacy: they will now record the types of websites you visit in order to gather a behavioral profile of your interests purportedly so that they can send you targeted advertising. This policy is in addition to their current policy of keeping a record of every single web search you have ever made along with as much other personally identifying information as they can gather. Of course, these behavioral profiles and detailed search histories will also be made available to law enforcement personnel upon request. The disregard for user privacy is a long standing tradition at Google and one that should be challenged. Just as Facebook was recently forced to cave after protests, Google too can be made to backtrack from their creeping violations of our privacy. Every company has their weak point, for Facebook it is the fear that users will stop using the site, and for Google it is the necessity of increasing their advertising revenue. I propose that we collectively embark on a civil disobedience campaign of intentional, automated “click fraud” in order to undermine Google’s advertising program with the goal of forcing Google to adopt a pro-privacy corporate policy.

. October 8, 2009 at 10:21 am

Why ad-blockers, ad-skippers and other user-control technologies are legal

EFF’s Fred von Lohmann explains with a great deal of clarity and precision why MediaFire is out of its mind to send legal threats over a Firefox plugin, SkipScreen, that auto-clicks through its ad-screens. It comes down to this: your browser is your browser, and you can auto-click, rewrite, block, display or manipulate what shows up on your screen as much as you like and it’s no one’s business but your own.

Yes, Boing Boing is ad-supported and yes, SkipScreen is an ad-blocker. So what? We’re not dumb enough to think that just because we’ve decided to earn our living from ads means that you have to give up your rights to control what’s on your screen. That’s what principle is: what you believe in even when it’s not convenient.

. November 16, 2009 at 10:03 am

Apple patents anti-user attention-complianceware

By Cory Doctorow on Gadgets

Apple’s filed a patent on a design for a device that won’t let its owner use it unless that person demonstrates that she has complied with an advertiser’s demands by paying attention to an ad and taking some action indicating her dutiful attention.

It’s amazing how many of these vendors fail to understand Chekhov’s first law of narrative: “A gun on the mantelpiece in act one is bound to go off by act three.” That is, if you design a device that is intended to attack its user — by shutting her out of her own files and processes against her wishes and without her consent — someone will figure out how to use that device to attack its user.

. December 18, 2009 at 11:01 am

Google says ad blockers will save online ads

Translation: People are lazy

By Cade Metz in Mountain View • Get more from this author

Posted in Applications, 16th December 2009 00:07 GMT

Free whitepaper – Straight Talk with Dell: Sending out an SaaS

Add-on-Con Google – the world’s largest online ad broker – sees no reason to worry about the addition of ad-blocking extensions to its Chrome browser. Online advertisers will ensure their ads aren’t too annoying, the company says, and netizens will ultimately realize that online advertising is a good thing.

“We think about this a lot a Google, because we make [just about] all of our money from advertising,” Google engineering director Linus Upson said on Friday at a browser-obsessed conference in Mountain View, California. “It’s unlikely that ad blockers will get to the level where they imperil the advertising market, because if advertising is so annoying that a large segment of the population wants to block it, then advertising needs to get less annoying.

. March 8, 2010 at 10:24 am

Ars Technica Inveighs Against Ad Blocking

“Ars Technica recently conducted a 12-hour experiment in which story content was hidden from users of popular ad blocking tools. Explaining the experiment, Ken Fisher appealed to Ars’s readership: ‘My argument is simple: blocking ads can be devastating to the sites you love. I am not making an argument that blocking ads is a form of stealing, or is immoral, or unethical, or makes someone the son of the devil. It can result in people losing their jobs, it can result in less content on any given site, and it definitely can affect the quality of content. It can also put sites into a real advertising death spin. As ad revenues go down, many sites are lured into running advertising of a truly questionable nature. We’ve all seen it happen. I am very proud of the fact that we routinely talk to you guys in our feedback forum about the quality of our ads. I have proven over 12 years that we will fight on the behalf of readers whenever we can. Does that mean that there are the occasional intrusive ads, expanding this way and that? Yes, sometimes we have to accept those ads. But any of you reading this site for any significant period of time know that these are few and far between. We turn down offers every month for advertising like that out of respect for you guys. We simply ask that you return the favor and not block ads.'”

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