Ethics of AdBlock

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elasto
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby elasto » Tue Nov 03, 2015 12:52 am UTC

Not entirely clear on your point, mw.

Content is always a service. Sometimes it's mostly static - like a wikipedia page - and sometimes it's very fluid, like search results. Content always costs resources for the content provider to provide - CPU, disk space, bandwidth - these are all costs for the service of providing the requested content.

But so what? How does it change any argument made thus far? For example, the busker on the public street is providing content as a service. He does it in the hope that he gets enough tips to make it worth his time. Yet I don't feel unethical if I stop for a moment, listen to him, then walk away without paying him for his service.

Movies on DVD are also content as a service - the service of burning content onto a DVD and shipping it to a store or through the mail. They contain ads which the advertisers hope enough people watch to make it worth their effort having subsidising this service. Yet I don't feel unethical if I always skip the adverts (and nor does Tyndmyr).

So, as I say, I'm not entirely clear what the point of your nitpick.

morriswalters
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby morriswalters » Tue Nov 03, 2015 3:17 am UTC

elasto wrote:Content is always a service. Sometimes it's mostly static - like a wikipedia page - and sometimes it's very fluid, like search results. Content always costs resources for the content provider to provide - CPU, disk space, bandwidth - these are all costs for the service of providing the requested content.
Overhead is part of pricing. In the case for instance of original video or text content what you are selling is an intangible, my emotional reaction to your content. I can't appropriate it as mine. That's covered by copyright. This is particularly true for the busker. And Google Calendar is a different case in terms of how I value it and how I use it. I'm trying to understand why some things are acceptable to me and others aren't.
elasto wrote:Movies on DVD are also content as a service - the service of burning content onto a DVD and shipping it to a store or through the mail. They contain ads which the advertisers hope enough people watch to make it worth their effort having subsidising this service. Yet I don't feel unethical if I always skip the adverts (and nor does Tyndmyr).
I don't buy DVD's anymore. And if they choose to they can make the commercials unskippable, whatever your ethical position on that they don't care. They don't because an irritant like that would reduce sales. What you are leasing is the movie, the rest is the delivery mechanism. And the content is protected by both technology and law. Don't confuse the two.
elasto wrote:So, as I say, I'm not entirely clear what the point of your nitpick.
Asked and answered above. And finished with.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby elasto » Tue Nov 03, 2015 5:24 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:I'm trying to understand why some things are acceptable to me and others aren't.

So it was basically a question to yourself out loud? Ok. Hope you're satisfied with your own answer :D

elasto wrote:And if they choose to they can make the commercials unskippable, whatever your ethical position on that they don't care.

Actually, I'm not sure they could. Youtube has the most 'unskippable' ad delivery system that I'm aware of, and yet their ads can be ignored by download tools such as Video Downloader Ultimate

In most countries, making a copy of a DVD you own for personal use is legal. I would be almost certain that if you just copied the movie and not the adverts, you wouldn't be breaking the law - and nor would playing the movie on a media player that automatically skips the ads be illegal - any more than an ad-blocker which selectively renders a webpage is.

IANAL of course, but, even if I was wrong, a law preventing you from skipping ads would be about as enforceable as laws preventing you from ripping your own DVDs have been...

(In researching this post, I came across a couple of 'fun' links: Up until last year, it was illegal in the UK to rip your own music/dvds, but then we made it legal to do so. However, the High Court has recently quashed the new law, making it illegal again!

Meanwhile, those of us living in the real world continue to do what we always have, quite relaxed in the ethics of our choices...)

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K-R
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby K-R » Tue Nov 03, 2015 6:19 am UTC

Sure, there are ways around "unskippable" ads, but there is a way to prevent the 'next chapter', 'fast forward' and 'menu' buttons working on a standard DVD player. It seems more common to let DVD ads be skippable than not (although I have seen forced ads on DVDs), although I don't think ads on DVDs are even all that common. WWE always advertises a few of their other DVDs, a lot of the early Blu-Ray era DVDs had 'FYI Blu-Ray is now a thing' ads, and I've got a James Bond collection with ads for...itself, but they're the only ones I can recall.

morriswalters
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby morriswalters » Tue Nov 03, 2015 11:11 am UTC

Try skipping the copyright violation warnings.
elasto wrote:So it was basically a question to yourself out loud? Ok. Hope you're satisfied with your own answer :D
Well no, asking yourself is a feelgood thing. You should always like the answer.
elasto wrote:Meanwhile, those of us living in the real world continue to do what we always have, quite relaxed in the ethics of our choices...)
I gave it up. Netflix et al satisfied my need for "content". Once that happened, ripping DVD's became pointless, or at least more trouble than it was worth. That represents a case of the people speaking and the market listening. I let Netflix assume the headache of making backups and keeping the content current.

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HES
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby HES » Tue Nov 03, 2015 5:02 pm UTC

elasto wrote:Youtube has the most 'unskippable' ad delivery system that I'm aware of

Youtube has the most skippable ad delivery system that I'm aware of - if Adblock can beat it, it's far from the best. There are way more secure systems out there.
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elasto
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby elasto » Wed Nov 04, 2015 12:35 am UTC

HES wrote:Youtube has the most skippable ad delivery system that I'm aware of - if Adblock can beat it, it's far from the best. There are way more secure systems out there.

For clarity, I'm talking about the interstitial videos that are shown before the video you actually want to see. You usually get these on the most premium content - say a Taylor Swift single. Adblock can't do anything about these (but other methods can).

As I've said before though, Google is one of the better ones when it comes to ads; For examples, these interstitial ads are usually skippable after a few seconds (which gives Google valuable info on what ads people like and don't like watching - which is a fair trade as well as treating the viewer with respect.)

morriswalters wrote:I gave it up. Netflix et al satisfied my need for "content". Once that happened, ripping DVD's became pointless, or at least more trouble than it was worth. That represents a case of the people speaking and the market listening.

Well, sure, but I hope you realise you're making my point for me. The history of DVDs/CDs demonstrate how if content is provided in a way that annoys people, they may choose to not simply just skip the annoying aspects, but not compensate the content provider at all - ethics and legality be damned. Not having to pay was only one reason for the massive explosion in torrenting that occurred last decade; Other reasons include(d) content being released in one territory long before others, and streaming being far more convenient than faffing around with physical media locked to a single platform.

The content providers we are talking about here (websites) likewise have to bend to market forces: Better for a site to show a safe, low-impact ad with small revenue - or find other non-intrusive methods of covering costs - than show dangerous, high-impact ads that get blocked giving no revenue at all.

The movie/tv/music industries almost waited too long to get their act together; If they'd waited another 5-10 years, torrenting might have become so ubiquitous that people would have balked at ever paying for content. Websites likewise need to get ahead of the curve and reform before ad-blockers become universal and the masses balk at ever viewing another ad again.

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K-R
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby K-R » Wed Nov 04, 2015 4:00 am UTC

elasto wrote:
HES wrote:Youtube has the most skippable ad delivery system that I'm aware of - if Adblock can beat it, it's far from the best. There are way more secure systems out there.

For clarity, I'm talking about the interstitial videos that are shown before the video you actually want to see. You usually get these on the most premium content - say a Taylor Swift single. Adblock can't do anything about these (but other methods can).
You sure? I've never seen one on my PC at all, and as far as I'm aware Adblock is the only thing I have installed that would do that.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby Copper Bezel » Wed Nov 04, 2015 9:05 am UTC

I've seen them during particularly long YouTube binges commercial content (as opposed to similarly long binges of, say, ripped documentary films). Rare, though. I wasn't quite sure what I was looking at. I do have an ad blocker installed, but it's disabled for any automatic functions.
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morriswalters
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby morriswalters » Wed Nov 04, 2015 12:27 pm UTC

HES wrote:
elasto wrote:Youtube has the most 'unskippable' ad delivery system that I'm aware of

Youtube has the most skippable ad delivery system that I'm aware of - if Adblock can beat it, it's far from the best. There are way more secure systems out there.
Not wanting to be accused of pedantry, but YouTube videos are a special type of content, Google doesn't own it. As different from Netflix's content, or CBS's et al. Google has to keep an arms reach separation. Safe Harbor and DMCA, wot?

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HES
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby HES » Wed Nov 04, 2015 1:29 pm UTC

elasto wrote:For clarity, I'm talking about the interstitial videos that are shown before the video you actually want to see. [...] Adblock can't do anything about these

It absolutely can.

That's the root of my objection - I'm not challenging any arguments, just calling out a bad example.
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elasto
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby elasto » Thu Nov 05, 2015 12:56 am UTC

HES wrote:
elasto wrote:For clarity, I'm talking about the interstitial videos that are shown before the video you actually want to see. [...] Adblock can't do anything about these

It absolutely can.

That's the root of my objection - I'm not challenging any arguments, just calling out a bad example.

Seriously? I use specifically Adblock Plus but these videos get shown to me. Care to walk me through how to never see them but go straight to the target video?

(Genuinely just out of curiosity; I genuinely don't mind these because after 5 seconds or so you can click to skip)

Edit: Ah, maybe I'm just suffering from a Chrome bug?

Ok, fair enough, I happily withdraw my claim - learn something new every day and all that :D

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Nov 05, 2015 3:48 pm UTC

ucim wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:But let's not pretend that security justifies blocking everything always.
The security issues are severe enough to warrant that it is not unethical to block all ads, always.


We have already established that this is not the reason you block ads, so let us not waste words bandying about false motivations.

Tyndmyr wrote:What do you mean "too late"?...The difference between say, Google and Buzzfeed is pretty immense.
Until Buzzfeed's ad servers and their ilk die a twisty agonizing death, I'll wait. Then they'll have to convince me that they'll never come back, nor will anything like it.
Spoiler:
Actually, buzzfeed itself can go to the hot place for all I care.
Tyndmyr wrote:I *do* hate when I start reading what I think is an actual article, and it turns out to be paid-for shill...
As Tyndmyr says, "So don't go there". You are not required to be on the internet.

Jose


Yes, buzzfeed is awful. However, you're missing the point. The point is that things are NOT already as bad as they can be. Some places are much, much worse than others. It is still possible to affect the market by choosing the better options.

Your other thing isn't an continuation of the discussion either. You're just throwing out non-sequiturs that do not tie back to the original conversation.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby Copper Bezel » Thu Nov 05, 2015 4:16 pm UTC

Thing you hate that you have to cognitively filter, but which is presented bundled with the content you want and helps fund it - native advertising has all of the features of any other advertising we could be concerned with, and just happens to be the one you find problematic, while others include more forms. It's not as explicitly labeled - but that sounds not a lot different from mw's claim that a website is on less shaky ground if it includes a page to explicitly state its advertising practice and rationale. I think it's fairly topical.
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ucim
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby ucim » Thu Nov 05, 2015 5:27 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:We have already established that this is not the reason you block ads, so let us not waste words bandying about false motivations.
No, you have not established that at all.

First, I don't block ads. I block scripts and I block "bad" websites using a hosts file. I used to block animations, but I frequent places where I want the animations and have learned to hit ESC to stop them when I see them, so I no longer do that (also the Gecko engine no longer lets you not-play animations).

As a result, some ads are blocked. Usually these are the most annoying ones.

Also as a result some sites don't work, and I have to manually figure out whether I want each of a host of unknown sites to download and run scripts until I either get the site to work, or decide it's not worth it. (I've also checked the reviews on many of these script sites, quite a few are awful).

I don't run adblock.

However, the question is not whether or not I run it, but whether or not running it is unethical, to wit, whether or not viewing a public site without also allowing that site to display anything it wants (specifically ads) constitutes stealing. So, let us not waste words bandying about red herrings.

You hold that viewing a publicly available website without also paying attention to the advertising that that site suggests should also be displayed, in the manner that the site suggests that this advertising be displayed, is theft and is a violation of ethics. You have given your justification, which I find unconvincing.

I claim that it is not unethical to do so.
I further claim that it is not even dickish to do so.

But the burden is not on me to defend this; you are the one accusing "people like me" of holding bad ethics - (Irrespective of whether or not I actually use adblock, I find it ethical to do so). Nonetheless, I have given several defenses, one based directly on computer security (I should not have to allow my computer to become vulnerable to malware or overload), one based on mental security (I should not have to allow my mind to become vulnerable to advertising messages), one based on equivalence (many many analogies, none of which is perfect because a perfect analogy is an identity), one based on duty (it is not my duty to make somebody else's wishes come true), and others. In addition, I have raised the question of the ethics of the advertising industry itself; I have no obligation to let them run me over. When an army marches into town, I am not required to interview each soldier to see whether they are naughty or nice.

You don't accept them. Fine. You are still the one calling "people like me" thieves. With an accusation like that, the burden is on you to show it's true, rather than on me to prove my innocence.

Tyndmyr wrote:The point is that things are NOT already as bad as they can be.
This is hardly justification. One should not have to wait until things are actually as bad as they can be before it becomes ethical to avoid ads.

Tyndmyr wrote:Your other thing isn't an continuation of the discussion either.
What "other thing"? I was just responding to you, in kind. If it doesn't work when you hear it, then it doesn't work when you say it either.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Nov 05, 2015 10:51 pm UTC

ucim wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:The point is that things are NOT already as bad as they can be.
This is hardly justification. One should not have to wait until things are actually as bad as they can be before it becomes ethical to avoid ads.


Your early reason relied upon "things are as bad as they can be, so what's the point?"

Thus, a disproval of your logic leaves you sitting with an unsupported point.

You keep ignoring point for point rebuttals, instead responding in a near-random fashion to the points, as if no conversation proceeded it. If you cannot stay on topic, it is nigh impossible to actually address your ethical claims.

This never ending jumping around, often back to the same old points, constitutes the "gish gallop" I have already called you on.

In short, you're not really arguing in good faith.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby ucim » Thu Nov 05, 2015 11:42 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Your early reason relied upon "things are as bad as they can be, so what's the point?"

[Citation needed]

I did say "it's to late" when you brought up the tragedy of the commons, which the advertisers have foisted upon us. It's already happened.

It can certainly get worse. But I'm not going to wait until it's "as bad as it can be", and I am not ethically obligated to.

Tyndmyr wrote:You keep ignoring point for point rebuttals, instead responding in a near-random fashion to the points...
If you can't follow what I'm saying, then I guess I have no more to say.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby Twistar » Fri Nov 06, 2015 12:16 am UTC

ucim wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:You keep ignoring point for point rebuttals, instead responding in a near-random fashion to the points...
If you can't follow what I'm saying, then I guess I have no more to say.

Jose


You two are just struggling because things one person thinks are important the other person doesn't think are important so each person just talks about what they themselves find important and you two end up talking past each other. If you want the conversation to move forward you both need to withdraw a little bit from trenches to try to see and understand why the other person is saying what they are saying and why they think THOSE aspects are important and not different aspects.

That or just drop the conversation.

As for me, I stand by my point (which Tyndmyr didn't respond to, though he or she responded to other of my points) that it is not a question of ethical vs. unethical; I think it is very clear that unethical is much too strong a word to describe the actions of those who use adblock. But rather, it is a question of, in Ucim's words, dickish vs. not dickish. I think that is a spot from which this conversation can move forward but maybe I don't know anything.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby elasto » Fri Nov 06, 2015 1:03 am UTC

Twistar wrote:You two are just struggling because things one person thinks are important the other person doesn't think are important so each person just talks about what they themselves find important and you two end up talking past each other. If you want the conversation to move forward you both need to withdraw a little bit from trenches to try to see and understand why the other person is saying what they are saying and why they think THOSE aspects are important and not different aspects.

I think it's more fundamental than that. As I've said in other threads, I think ethics primary originate in the gut, and people absorb and re-emit the arguments that match their gut feeling. In a very real sense, both sides are merely rationalising, and movement in either direction is quite unlikely (myself included).

As for me, I stand by my point (which Tyndmyr didn't respond to, though he or she responded to other of my points) that it is not a question of ethical vs. unethical; I think it is very clear that unethical is much too strong a word to describe the actions of those who use adblock. But rather, it is a question of, in Ucim's words, dickish vs. not dickish. I think that is a spot from which this conversation can move forward but maybe I don't know anything.

Yes, that might help. It's definitely possible to be a dick and not support a site you use a lot - for example, how many of us here who use xkcd daily actually support Monroe by buying some of his stuff? I have to confess I've never done so. Does that make me a dick? Quite possibly. Seems like a thin line to me between not supporting Monroe by buying his stuff and not supporting BuzzFeed by watching their ads. Probably both are dickish moves (if we ignore the security argument, and if we assume someone reads both sites daily), but which is the more unethical? To answer that most people probably defer to their gut not their head...

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby morriswalters » Fri Nov 06, 2015 3:30 am UTC

I would as soon send cash to show support. All it takes is a send me money button, I'm dying to send him money. Oh well I'll settle for a cup since I collect them.

elasto
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby elasto » Fri Nov 06, 2015 3:42 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:I would as soon send cash to show support. All it takes is a send me money button, I'm dying to send him money. Oh well I'll settle for a cup since I collect them.

Agreed on the cash button as me buying something would be highly inefficient being outside the US and all.

Personally I'd love to chuck him a dollar a month through Patreon or something.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby LaserGuy » Fri Nov 06, 2015 7:27 am UTC

Twistar wrote:As for me, I stand by my point (which Tyndmyr didn't respond to, though he or she responded to other of my points) that it is not a question of ethical vs. unethical; I think it is very clear that unethical is much too strong a word to describe the actions of those who use adblock. But rather, it is a question of, in Ucim's words, dickish vs. not dickish. I think that is a spot from which this conversation can move forward but maybe I don't know anything.


Define what you mean by ethical dickish behaviour, and we can go from there. In my world, those two terms are virtually synonymous: "Don't be a dick" is a pretty good place to start building up an ethical system (though it's usually phrased as something more like "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you").

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby elasto » Fri Nov 06, 2015 11:48 am UTC

LaserGuy wrote:Define what you mean by ethical dickish behaviour, and we can go from there. In my world, those two terms are virtually synonymous

Hmm. It's not easy to be an ethical dick. It's perhaps when your motivation for doing the morally correct thing in some situation is that it will annoy someone. An ethical non-dick might do exactly the same thing in the same situation, but their motivation would have been different. A concrete example might be a government passing a non-discrimination law (which they know to be the morally correct thing to do - so it's not 'accidentally' ethical) but they do it purely because they know it will annoy some target audience, eg. a foreign government. Another example might be someone who reports a crime because they hate the perpetrator and seeing them jailed would bring enormous pleasure.

Given the right circumstances, it's possible to be a saint and still be an asshole. Sometimes internet trolls can fall into this category.

That's somewhat of an aside though. The dickishness/non-dickishness spectrum for me is more about how you behave in the vast majority of decisions that are neither absolutely moral nor absolutely immoral. Most decisions are amoral but still can be approached with a dickish or non-dickish mindset. A concrete example might be an ad company designing an ad: Do they focus on short term revenue and have it be more annoying to more people than the average ad? Or do they focus on long-term revenue and have it be less annoying than usual? Neither choice is immoral (it's impossible to do anything in this world without offending or annoying someone - and no ad is intended to be annoying - it's a downside noone desires), but one choice is arguably more dickish.

For me, dickish/non-dickishness can be akin to politeness/rudeness or tactfulness/tactlessness. You can do the right thing rudely, the right thing politely, the wrong thing rudely or the wrong thing politely.

I got robbed at knifepoint once and the guy was genuinely a 'gentleman robber'. He made it clear it was nothing personal, purely business, and was extremely polite about it (while also making it clear he'd knife me if I glanced at him wrong.) He could have been far more of a dick about it - really revelling in his power over me at that moment - but he didn't. He did his best to make me relaxed and comfortable. It was obviously an unethical act, but he wasn't a dick about it.
Last edited by elasto on Fri Nov 06, 2015 12:10 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby icanus » Fri Nov 06, 2015 12:07 pm UTC

elasto wrote:and no ad is intended to be annoying - it's a downside noone desires

The ones that pop-up and cover the page, and rely on you being too annoyed to notice that the "close button" is actually a link to the advertiser's site spring to mind.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby elasto » Fri Nov 06, 2015 12:13 pm UTC

icanus wrote:The ones that pop-up and cover the page, and rely on you being too annoyed to notice that the "close button" is actually a link to the advertiser's site spring to mind.

Again, not sure they intend to annoy. I think they intend to deceive, which is somewhat different - though equally dickish...

----

On reflection, not sure I expressed myself too well in my last post. Here's a (hopefully) better and more succinct attempt.

The more someone does an unethical action out of perceived necessity - taking no pleasure in it - the less dickish they are.
The more someone does an unethical action purely because of taking pleasure from the harm that results - the more dickish they are.

All actions have good and bad consequences. If someone does something purely for the good that results and dearly wishes the bad didn't occur, they are not a dick. If someone does the same act purely for the bad that results and dearly wishes the good didn't occur, they are a massive dick.

And this is true no matter if the good outweighs the bad (the action is ethical) or the bad the good (it's unethical).

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Nov 06, 2015 4:39 pm UTC

ucim wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Your early reason relied upon "things are as bad as they can be, so what's the point?"

[Citation needed]

I did say "it's to late" when you brought up the tragedy of the commons, which the advertisers have foisted upon us. It's already happened.

It can certainly get worse. But I'm not going to wait until it's "as bad as it can be", and I am not ethically obligated to.


Then, it's not too late, you merely don't care if it's too late to have an impact.

Twistar wrote:As for me, I stand by my point (which Tyndmyr didn't respond to, though he or she responded to other of my points) that it is not a question of ethical vs. unethical; I think it is very clear that unethical is much too strong a word to describe the actions of those who use adblock. But rather, it is a question of, in Ucim's words, dickish vs. not dickish. I think that is a spot from which this conversation can move forward but maybe I don't know anything.


There are varying levels of ethics. Sure, this is a smaller example than say, the trolley problem. I think that ethical considerations still exist even in smaller decisions, though.

What you call 'dickish', I believe to be simply a smaller question of ethics. I do not believe that it is ethical to, without any reason, act like an asshole towards folks. Sure, there are times when a greater concern predominates over a lesser, but all other things being equal, it seems ethically better to...not be dickish.

elasto wrote:Yes, that might help. It's definitely possible to be a dick and not support a site you use a lot - for example, how many of us here who use xkcd daily actually support Monroe by buying some of his stuff? I have to confess I've never done so. Does that make me a dick? Quite possibly. Seems like a thin line to me between not supporting Monroe by buying his stuff and not supporting BuzzFeed by watching their ads. Probably both are dickish moves (if we ignore the security argument, and if we assume someone reads both sites daily), but which is the more unethical? To answer that most people probably defer to their gut not their head...


It would be nice to support him. However, doing so is not something he apparently requires to use his site. However, rather than getting bogged down in individual cases, you might prefer to look at generalities. Making a practice of never supporting people who make things you like is...well, odd at best. Certainly it does not provide any incentives for such people to continue to do so.

elasto wrote:
icanus wrote:The ones that pop-up and cover the page, and rely on you being too annoyed to notice that the "close button" is actually a link to the advertiser's site spring to mind.

Again, not sure they intend to annoy. I think they intend to deceive, which is somewhat different - though equally dickish...


I agree regarding the motives, though I'd cheerfully label those particular examples designed to trick the user as unethical.

I also have no trouble believing that whoever coded that is probably just a guy working for a living, and doesn't particularly harbor any malice for me, but I still view the act as dickish. Someone can easily be a dick without caring in the slightest at all.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby Copper Bezel » Fri Nov 06, 2015 6:11 pm UTC

That's the thing for me, though. Advertisers have the right to deceive, and I have the right to use ad blockers. Dickish or unethical behavior within that space is a case to case value judgement where two wrongs can very readily make a right. So you can say that an individual case of using an ad blocker for a particular purpose is a dick move, but you can't say the whole system is. Ad blockers are force meant to counter force, just on a tiny scale.
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby morriswalters » Sat Nov 07, 2015 1:04 am UTC

Well one outcome of this thread, until I got here I didn't use Ad Block. After discussing it I installed it. What kind of dickish does that make me? Purely a rhetorical question.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby Twistar » Sat Nov 07, 2015 1:59 am UTC

LaserGuy wrote:
Twistar wrote:As for me, I stand by my point (which Tyndmyr didn't respond to, though he or she responded to other of my points) that it is not a question of ethical vs. unethical; I think it is very clear that unethical is much too strong a word to describe the actions of those who use adblock. But rather, it is a question of, in Ucim's words, dickish vs. not dickish. I think that is a spot from which this conversation can move forward but maybe I don't know anything.


Define what you mean by ethical dickish behaviour, and we can go from there. In my world, those two terms are virtually synonymous: "Don't be a dick" is a pretty good place to start building up an ethical system (though it's usually phrased as something more like "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you").


I think this is a bit key. I'm not envisioning ethical dickish behavior. Rather I'm envisioning behavior which doesn't even fall on the ethics spectrum. There's moral, immoral and amoral. There's ethical, unethical and anethical*. I see using adblock as an action which doesn't fall on the ethical spectrum. Taking the last slice of pizza generally doesn't fall on the ethical spectrum (unless you're taking it FROM someone who had some right to it.) Brushing your teeth doesn't fall on the ethical spectrum. There are plenty of things that we do all the time that do not fall on the ethical spectrum. Or maybe you can insist that EVERY SINGLE action actually is on the ethical or unethical spectrum. Fine, then we need a 2D graph. On the vertical axis there is How important is this ethically (0 to 10), and on the horizontal axis is how unethical vs ethical is this action (-10 to +10). Something like murder would be at (10,-10). It a major ethical question and it is very unethical. Donating to charity could be maybe (8, +9) or so depending on circumstances and what not. Brushing your teeth is maybe (1, 3). It just isn't really that important in terms of ethics. if you want to couch it in terms of hygiene and social good then FINE but you're really just being pedantic. This brings up my next point.

Tyndmyr wrote:What you call 'dickish', I believe to be simply a smaller question of ethics. I do not believe that it is ethical to, without any reason, act like an asshole towards folks. Sure, there are times when a greater concern predominates over a lesser, but all other things being equal, it seems ethically better to...not be dickish.

I've bolded "but all other things being equal". Yes you are right, all things being equal, it is better to be not dickish. But I think the point is that all things are NOT equal. And it get's harder to argue a particular point the lower you are towards the X axis on the graph I'm considering. To argue one way or the other depends a lot on circumstances. Put another way, When you move towards the X axis on the graph the uncertainty in the X direction increases. So instead of a point at (1,3) for brushing you teeth you now have a blurry line from about 0 to 6 and it really depends on circumstances. And I think that's the point with adblock. It really doesn't fall that high vertically on the how important is this ethically chart so you can kind of argue either way whether it's ethical or not as we've seen. And it can depend on all sorts of things safety, annoyance, relationship with content producer, distrust of advertisers etc. And then you have to zoom out and start making sweeping statements about the future of the internet and macroeconomics involved and it's like "really?"


So a lot of the above was to humor the notion that "every action can be thought of as ethical or unethical." If you want to hold onto that then maybe you can use the language above. I am going to stick with my original notion which was that there do in fact exist anethical actions, and by and large, the decision to use adblock is one of them. Maybe in the future circumstances will change it actually will become more significant in terms of ethics but at the moment that's not the case.

So anyways, moving forward from here. I think the next question is whether or not is dickish to use adblock or not because people even have differing opinions on that. But see.. I think it won't be difficult to reach agreement on that. Everyone agrees that it's not dickish to block malicious ads but that it would probably be preferable to expose yourself to the "good" ads shown on webpages you want to support. Of course questions remain like do the bad ads justify blocking ALL ads? And it's probably just going to come down to personal preference. And one person might think the other is a dick for how they behave and that is fine, they're entitled to that opinion.






*I literally made that word up and it turned out it was in a dictionary! anethical

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby LaserGuy » Sat Nov 07, 2015 8:09 am UTC

Twistar wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:
Twistar wrote:As for me, I stand by my point (which Tyndmyr didn't respond to, though he or she responded to other of my points) that it is not a question of ethical vs. unethical; I think it is very clear that unethical is much too strong a word to describe the actions of those who use adblock. But rather, it is a question of, in Ucim's words, dickish vs. not dickish. I think that is a spot from which this conversation can move forward but maybe I don't know anything.


Define what you mean by ethical dickish behaviour, and we can go from there. In my world, those two terms are virtually synonymous: "Don't be a dick" is a pretty good place to start building up an ethical system (though it's usually phrased as something more like "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you").


I think this is a bit key. I'm not envisioning ethical dickish behavior. Rather I'm envisioning behavior which doesn't even fall on the ethics spectrum. There's moral, immoral and amoral. There's ethical, unethical and anethical*. I see using adblock as an action which doesn't fall on the ethical spectrum. Taking the last slice of pizza generally doesn't fall on the ethical spectrum (unless you're taking it FROM someone who had some right to it.) Brushing your teeth doesn't fall on the ethical spectrum. There are plenty of things that we do all the time that do not fall on the ethical spectrum. Or maybe you can insist that EVERY SINGLE action actually is on the ethical or unethical spectrum. Fine, then we need a 2D graph. On the vertical axis there is How important is this ethically (0 to 10), and on the horizontal axis is how unethical vs ethical is this action (-10 to +10). Something like murder would be at (10,-10). It a major ethical question and it is very unethical. Donating to charity could be maybe (8, +9) or so depending on circumstances and what not. Brushing your teeth is maybe (1, 3). It just isn't really that important in terms of ethics. if you want to couch it in terms of hygiene and social good then FINE but you're really just being pedantic. This brings up my next point.


There have been a surprising number of words spilled about the ethics of putting away shopping carts at the grocery store. It may not be important ethically on your scale, but it's an issue that comes up orders of magnitude more frequently than things that are strongly immoral or unethical, and is important on that basis. Everyday ethics is all about the small stuff. Yes there are some decisions that are genuinely amoral or anethical, but it doesn't seem at all clear that this is one of those cases. If this were an ethically uninteresting question, I doubt you'd have a four hundred post thread discussing it.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby Twistar » Sat Nov 07, 2015 8:31 am UTC

LaserGuy wrote:
Twistar wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:
Twistar wrote:As for me, I stand by my point (which Tyndmyr didn't respond to, though he or she responded to other of my points) that it is not a question of ethical vs. unethical; I think it is very clear that unethical is much too strong a word to describe the actions of those who use adblock. But rather, it is a question of, in Ucim's words, dickish vs. not dickish. I think that is a spot from which this conversation can move forward but maybe I don't know anything.


Define what you mean by ethical dickish behaviour, and we can go from there. In my world, those two terms are virtually synonymous: "Don't be a dick" is a pretty good place to start building up an ethical system (though it's usually phrased as something more like "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you").


I think this is a bit key. I'm not envisioning ethical dickish behavior. Rather I'm envisioning behavior which doesn't even fall on the ethics spectrum. There's moral, immoral and amoral. There's ethical, unethical and anethical*. I see using adblock as an action which doesn't fall on the ethical spectrum. Taking the last slice of pizza generally doesn't fall on the ethical spectrum (unless you're taking it FROM someone who had some right to it.) Brushing your teeth doesn't fall on the ethical spectrum. There are plenty of things that we do all the time that do not fall on the ethical spectrum. Or maybe you can insist that EVERY SINGLE action actually is on the ethical or unethical spectrum. Fine, then we need a 2D graph. On the vertical axis there is How important is this ethically (0 to 10), and on the horizontal axis is how unethical vs ethical is this action (-10 to +10). Something like murder would be at (10,-10). It a major ethical question and it is very unethical. Donating to charity could be maybe (8, +9) or so depending on circumstances and what not. Brushing your teeth is maybe (1, 3). It just isn't really that important in terms of ethics. if you want to couch it in terms of hygiene and social good then FINE but you're really just being pedantic. This brings up my next point.


There have been a surprising number of words spilled about the ethics of putting away shopping carts at the grocery store. It may not be important ethically on your scale, but it's an issue that comes up orders of magnitude more frequently than things that are strongly immoral or unethical, and is important on that basis. Everyday ethics is all about the small stuff. Yes there are some decisions that are genuinely amoral or anethical, but it doesn't seem at all clear that this is one of those cases. If this were an ethically uninteresting question, I doubt you'd have a four hundred post thread discussing it.


I mean sure. I agree (in contradiction to statements I've made earlier in this thread) that it's not immediately obvious that this issue is entirely anethical. But I think it's clear (for the same reasons) that it's not immediately obvious that it's unethical and that statements that have been made in this thread are far too strong. For example, I would be comfortable* with the claim that using adblock is unethical the same way not putting away your shopping cart is unethical. I'm not comfortable with the claim that using adblock is like shoplifting.

And then, once we all agree that the situation isn't as ethically weighty as has been implied by the past ten pages then the conversation can de-escalate and we can discuss the various pros and cons and detailed exceptions and intricacies etc. without all of the absolutist ethical weight hanging over every statement we make. i.e. one side trying to damn the other to hell for their sins and the shouting their innocence to the world.

And furthermore, it's not as simple as the shopping cart case because there are clearly arguments either way. As was said a few posts up,

Copper Bezel wrote:That's the thing for me, though. Advertisers have the right to deceive, and I have the right to use ad blockers. Dickish or unethical behavior within that space is a case to case value judgement where two wrongs can very readily make a right. So you can say that an individual case of using an ad blocker for a particular purpose is a dick move, but you can't say the whole system is. Ad blockers are force meant to counter force, just on a tiny scale.


It really looks like the ethics of it turn out to be a case by case thing and there are just too many details to make any sweeping statement about the "Ethics of AdBlock". you CAN make sweeping statements but it's just not going to easy, pleasant, useful, or enlightening to try to justify those statements.

*edit: I would be comfortable with that claim even though I think I would argue against it. In other words I think it would be reasonable for someone to make that statement and I would see that as promoting a useful conversation even though I disagree. I don't feel the same way about the statement that using adblock is like stealing or shoplifting.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby morriswalters » Sat Nov 07, 2015 1:24 pm UTC

I'm uncertain that ethics have much to do with shopping carts or the web directly. This seems to revolve around what I guess would be called an opportunity cost? There isn't a cost to not returning the cart. The same would hold true on the web. If the argument is that web content will disappear if it can't be monetized, however true that might be, the connection isn't immediately obvious and doesn't cost any one user anything. The so called tragedy of the commons. But it's why stores have doors and why they have to collect shopping carts.

The existence of an ethical rule by itself is meaningless. If ethics are a guide as to how we should behave, then things like incentives are strategies for producing that behavior. Ad Block could be seen as a feedback telling the system that the incentives are incorrect. If the bulk of the population does what we think they should do, then any trend away from that behavior indicates a problem.

Thus that Ad Block exists isn't the major problem, that its use is increasing is. Thus Tyndmyr's assertion that if you don't watch the ads you shouldn't use the sites misses the point IMO. It assumes that all this is happening in a controlled conscious fashion, when what really seems happening is that all the players are acting in their own interests and and setting up various feedback loops which will unconsciously produce the ?structures? that properly incentivize the behaviors we want. So the question of should I be compensated for my content isn't the right question. The question would seem instead to be what mechanism properly incentivizes the consumer to give me what I judge my content to be worth.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby ucim » Sat Nov 07, 2015 8:32 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:Thus that Ad Block exists isn't the major problem, that its use is increasing is.
No, that is the symptom, not the problem. The problem is the aggressiveness of the advertising industry, and of the advertisers; aggressiveness that runs the gamut from merely annoying to downright criminal.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby elasto » Sun Nov 08, 2015 4:46 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:So the question of should I be compensated for my content isn't the right question. The question would seem instead to be what mechanism properly incentivizes the consumer to give me what I judge my content to be worth.

And not just that. It's that people overvalue the content they produce. They could easily sell it for a dollar (via subtle ads), but they try to wring out five dollars from it (via aggressive ads) and people baulk and consume it for free. Ethical or unethical, legal or illegal, you have to give people value for money or the market will just run you over.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby HES » Mon Nov 09, 2015 12:03 pm UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:Advertisers have the right to deceive

No they don't, there are laws against this.

morriswalters wrote:There isn't a cost to not returning the cart.

In most of the UK, shopping trolleys use a coin deposit system. So over here, there is.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby Copper Bezel » Mon Nov 09, 2015 12:13 pm UTC

There are laws prohibiting an innumerable set of specific forms of deception within the unlimited set of possible ones.
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby morriswalters » Mon Nov 09, 2015 12:49 pm UTC

HES wrote:In most of the UK, shopping trolleys use a coin deposit system. So over here, there is.
Do the carts get returned?

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby HES » Mon Nov 09, 2015 1:35 pm UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:There are laws prohibiting an innumerable set of specific forms of deception within the unlimited set of possible ones.

Obviously this varies by jurisdiction, but phrases like "Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so" somewhat cover the rest.

morriswalters wrote:Do the carts get returned?

For the most part, yes.
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby Neil_Boekend » Mon Nov 09, 2015 2:13 pm UTC

HES wrote:
morriswalters wrote:Do the carts get returned?

For the most part, yes.

Dunno about the UK, but here in the Netherlands requiring a EUR 0.50 coin is sufficient to have next to all the carts returned. But then again: everybody says we are cheap bastards.
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby morriswalters » Mon Nov 09, 2015 2:21 pm UTC

Then the ethics of returning shopping carts has been more or less properly incentivized, yes?
HES wrote:"Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so" somewhat cover the rest.
A lot of advertising doesn't need to materially mislead to be deceptive. The advertiser just needs to know how your mind works. The Marlboro cigarette advertising campaign ads weren't in themselves misleading. Cowboys smoked. They looked "sexy", and the commercials were designed to appeal to the public's fantasies about cowboys. They just never showed the cowboys dying of cancer.


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