Ethics of AdBlock

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LaserGuy
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Ethics of AdBlock

Postby LaserGuy » Mon Oct 20, 2014 9:02 pm UTC

For anyone who doesn't know, AdBlock is browser app that is able to discreetly block most, if not all advertising on the Internet. It is shocking effective at this task. At its most restrictive, it is capable of pretty much blocking all browsing advertising, including videos ads, pop-ups, banner ads, sidebars, etc., and generally makes a lot of online activities (particularly, say, online streaming or YouTube surfing) much more enjoyable as a result.

On the other hand, a significant majority of websites rely on advertising as their primary source of revenue. I don't know whether or not an ad that is blocked by AdBlock is still seen as a "hit" on ad counters or not, but I'd assume not--at very least nobody is clicking on those blocked ads--then websites are directly losing revenue as a result. In effect, one could argue that this is much the same as illegal file-sharing, in that you are getting the website content without paying (through watching ads). Moreover, widespread use of online ad blocking could significantly undermine advertising as a model for online businesses, and currently, AFAIK, there aren't a lot of other models that are terribly and equitably profitable.

I will note that AdBlock offers a feature to allow "acceptable advertising." Acceptable advertising in this case means ads that don't significantly disrupt the user experience--ads that are clearly marked as such, with no pop-ups, no sound, no animation, but rather only small images or preferably text, positioned in a way that does not block or disrupt website the content. The creators of AdBlock argue that this is, in effect, a market-based solution that will encourage advertisers to use more tolerable ads.

What I'm interested in knowing is what do people feel about the ethics of blocking online advertising. It obviously isn't illegal, and isn't likely to ever be. Is it ethical? Is it unethical? Unethical but the improvement of your browsing experience sufficient that you don't care? If you use AdBlock, do you allow "acceptable advertising"? Finally, more broadly, if AdBlocking does become fairly ubiquitous to the point that online advertising isn't terribly profitable for anybody, what alternatives might websites, especially smaller ones, consider to stay afloat?

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby aoeu » Mon Oct 20, 2014 10:13 pm UTC

So many websites trying to max their ad views / clicks is ruining the internet. It leads to so much spam and rumors. I wish everyone installed adblock.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby KrytenKoro » Tue Oct 21, 2014 12:10 am UTC

I signed no contract on visiting the website. I can't even think of a workable principle of "you are obligated to view the complete website". So why should it matter which part of the website I look at?

I have family who immediately mute the TV or leave the room once commercials start. Should this be considered unethical?

From a supply and demand view, the suppliers currently seem to be setting a price of "free, but please look at these ads" or "free, but your computer browser will be hijacked to redirect you to a pay-for-app site in a manner that, if it's not illegal, damn well should be" (looking at you, notalwaysright and clientsfromhell!) Many of the websites that convince people to get adblock in the first place download spyware or hijack the computer, at least temporarily. If that's the cost the website owners want to set, then it's their own responsibility when demand falls to 0. As for me, I see no "theft" going on when the website owners are allowing software that is stealing my information or my control of my software without ever notifying me of the fact or asking for consent in the first place.

Website runners certainly have the right to say "if you like this content, please view the ads to ensure my revenue stream". They absolutely do not have the moral high ground to slap in harmful, often deceptive advertising without any form of vetting, and then complain when I refrain from viewing it. With the mess that greed has made of internet advertising, each and every website should work to earn my trust rather than taking it for granted.
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby Sizik » Tue Oct 21, 2014 12:32 am UTC

I know some video websites, if they detect that you've blocked a video ad, will make you wait something like 90s to watch the video, rather than the 30s an ad would take.
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby KrytenKoro » Tue Oct 21, 2014 1:34 am UTC

Sizik wrote:I know some video websites, if they detect that you've blocked a video ad, will make you wait something like 90s to watch the video, rather than the 30s an ad would take.

That's totally legit. That is absolutely, totally legit. The producers are absolutely free to withhold their content.

But I'm crying no tears for producers who are both too lazy to vet their clickbait for harmful spyware/malware, and too lazy to enforce any kind of contract with their consumer.
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby ucim » Tue Oct 21, 2014 2:22 am UTC

LaserGuy wrote:n the other hand, a significant majority of websites rely on advertising as their primary source of revenue. [...]websites are directly losing revenue as a result [of ad blocking]. In effect, one could argue that this is much the same as illegal file-sharing...
... and such a one would be wrong.

Ask: Am I permitted to choose what I read, and what I don't read?

Ask: Am I obligated to ensure that websites make money?

If the answer is "no, no", then the case is closed. If either answer is "yes", we have something to discuss.

The difference between ad blocking and file sharing is that in the first case I'm choosing for myself. In the other case I'm choosing for others.

Jose
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby LaserGuy » Tue Oct 21, 2014 3:10 am UTC

ucim wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:n the other hand, a significant majority of websites rely on advertising as their primary source of revenue. [...]websites are directly losing revenue as a result [of ad blocking]. In effect, one could argue that this is much the same as illegal file-sharing...
... and such a one would be wrong.

Ask: Am I permitted to choose what I read, and what I don't read?

Ask: Am I obligated to ensure that websites make money?

If the answer is "no, no", then the case is closed. If either answer is "yes", we have something to discuss.

The difference between ad blocking and file sharing is that in the first case I'm choosing for myself. In the other case I'm choosing for others.

Jose


I don't really understand what answering "no" to the first question means. I don't understand how the second question if any different from saying "Am I obligated to ensure that musicians/movie studios/writers/whoever makes money?" You aren't obligated to ensure that any business makes money. I don't see what that has to do with whether or not you ought to consume their product without paying for it.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby ahammel » Tue Oct 21, 2014 3:27 am UTC

When I buy software, I know I'm entering into a contract which says I won't pirate it. When I visit a website, I don't see myself as entering into a contract that says "look at the ads or don't look at the content". I don't think the website maintainers do either, but if they do, they have to tell me about it. I've seen websites that have little disclaimers behind the ads saying "hey, we know ads are annoying, but we need the revenue. Please consider whitelisting us or, even better, dropping us a donation". I'm fine with complying.

I think the feature of white-listing acceptable ads is an absolutely fantastic idea, and I'd like to see it taken further. I'd use an ad-blocker that worked with a community-maintained filter set which allowed ads to be up- or down-voted, only blocking the ads with bad karma. Maybe it would finally teach advertisers that annoying the shit out of potential consumers isn't the best way of doing things.
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby KrytenKoro » Tue Oct 21, 2014 4:47 am UTC

LaserGuy wrote:
ucim wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:n the other hand, a significant majority of websites rely on advertising as their primary source of revenue. [...]websites are directly losing revenue as a result [of ad blocking]. In effect, one could argue that this is much the same as illegal file-sharing...
... and such a one would be wrong.

Ask: Am I permitted to choose what I read, and what I don't read?

Ask: Am I obligated to ensure that websites make money?

If the answer is "no, no", then the case is closed. If either answer is "yes", we have something to discuss.

The difference between ad blocking and file sharing is that in the first case I'm choosing for myself. In the other case I'm choosing for others.

Jose


I don't really understand what answering "no" to the first question means. I don't understand how the second question if any different from saying "Am I obligated to ensure that musicians/movie studios/writers/whoever makes money?" You aren't obligated to ensure that any business makes money. I don't see what that has to do with whether or not you ought to consume their product without paying for it.

No to the first question means "I don't have to look at every page of the website/every ad in the newspaper/every billboard/every credits page in a video game or book".

Only websites have this idea that people are obligated to look at the ads in them if they partake of the work -- and before we say "we have to pay for those others" -- no we don't. Many newspapers are ad-supported but totally free, and billboards are, well, y'know.

If the websites want to advertise to their readers "Hey, please stop blocking the ads so I can continue to deliver", that's totally legit.

But let's not compare choosing not to give full attention to a billboard while driving to stealing the road itself.

Furthermore -- pirating music etc. is explicitly theft, because you're purposefully breaking the law to take the work. This is a situation comparable to not leaving money in the tip jar, and even that at least has a pervasive cultural tradition to communicate its unspoken contract.
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby LaserGuy » Tue Oct 21, 2014 5:16 am UTC

KrytenKoro wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:
ucim wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:n the other hand, a significant majority of websites rely on advertising as their primary source of revenue. [...]websites are directly losing revenue as a result [of ad blocking]. In effect, one could argue that this is much the same as illegal file-sharing...
... and such a one would be wrong.

Ask: Am I permitted to choose what I read, and what I don't read?

Ask: Am I obligated to ensure that websites make money?

If the answer is "no, no", then the case is closed. If either answer is "yes", we have something to discuss.

The difference between ad blocking and file sharing is that in the first case I'm choosing for myself. In the other case I'm choosing for others.

Jose


I don't really understand what answering "no" to the first question means. I don't understand how the second question if any different from saying "Am I obligated to ensure that musicians/movie studios/writers/whoever makes money?" You aren't obligated to ensure that any business makes money. I don't see what that has to do with whether or not you ought to consume their product without paying for it.


No to the first question means "I don't have to look at every page of the website/every ad in the newspaper/every billboard/every credits page in a video game or book".


I don't see how that reading follows from the first question at all. Maybe I'm just being obtuse, but I don't see how saying "I am not permitted to choose what I read and what I do not read" translates at all into what you're saying at all.

KrytenKoro wrote:Only websites have this idea that people are obligated to look at the ads in them if they partake of the work -- and before we say "we have to pay for those others" -- no we don't. Many newspapers are ad-supported but totally free, and billboards are, well, y'know.


In a newspaper, you can choose not to look at the ads; you can't choose to get a newspaper that doesn't have those ads. Ditto with billboards. You aren't obligated to look at them, but you also can't put up a giant white screen over every billboard you don't want to see, nor can you otherwise deface or vandalize them. The advertisers are paying to use that space.

Furthermore -- pirating music etc. is explicitly theft, because you're purposefully breaking the law to take the work. This is a situation comparable to not leaving money in the tip jar, and even that at least has a pervasive cultural tradition to communicate its unspoken contract.


This isn't a thread about laws, this is a thread about ethics. Yes, copyright infringement is in most places, illegal. Does that make a difference to the ethics of the situation? If copyright infringement was legal, or, if it is was (as it currently is, more or less) de facto legal, do you feel that would change the arguments for why people should or shouldn't do it? Likewise, the fact that AdBlocker is currently legal does not mean that it is necessarily ethical to use it, nor does it mean that it would necessarily be unethical to use it if it later became illegal to do so.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby WilliamLehnsherr » Tue Oct 21, 2014 7:00 am UTC

KrytenKoro wrote:I have family who immediately mute the TV or leave the room once commercials start. Should this be considered unethical?


I was wondering that too. I think a difference is that the show's producers don't lose any money by you leaving the room, as they don't know you're not watching. Which leads me to something LaserGuy said...

LaserGuy wrote:On the other hand, a significant majority of websites rely on advertising as their primary source of revenue. I don't know whether or not an ad that is blocked by AdBlock is still seen as a "hit" on ad counters or not, but I'd assume not--at very least nobody is clicking on those blocked ads--then websites are directly losing revenue as a result.


What if adblock tricked the advertisers into believing the ads had been watched (which, like you, I assume it doesn't)? The website would get the money from the advertiser, but the advertisers wouldn't have a chance to get your business. Is that anymore ethical? Any less? The same? Fourth option? Though I'm sure most people's responses, like mine, would be "but they wouldn't get my business anyway".

That scenario is more comparable to leaving the room during the ads on TV. Like I said, as far as the advertisers know, you saw them.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby CorruptUser » Tue Oct 21, 2014 1:54 pm UTC

The intrusive ads made the Internet nearly unusable. Adblock is their own damn fault.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby morriswalters » Tue Oct 21, 2014 2:21 pm UTC

There is no ethical conundrum here at all. Advertisers expect the bulk of the populace not to watch. Having said that, they know the weak minded will. Otherwise spam would be a thing of the past. Individual web sites who can't survive because of Adblock wouldn't seem to have content compelling enough to drive sufficient traffic for for the numbers to provide sufficient click throughs from those weak minded persons. And they should charge for their content if it is valuable enough to the smaller number of users who might be more "discerning".

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby KrytenKoro » Tue Oct 21, 2014 2:24 pm UTC

LaserGuy wrote:I don't see how that reading follows from the first question at all. Maybe I'm just being obtuse, but I don't see how saying "I am not permitted to choose what I read and what I do not read" translates at all into what you're saying at all.

I am, myself, choosing not to have the ads be viewed by my eyes, just as I could alternately choose not to have the "Contact Us" page be viewed by my eyes. I'm doing nothing to affect anyone else's choice. I'm not forcing the producers to remove the ads. I am choosing to only partake of a portion of what the producer has set before me, at the price the producer has dictated (free). If the producer wishes to dictate a different price, the means are easily within their reach.

I don't know how to explain it better than this. Jose's meaning is clear to me.

In a newspaper, you can choose not to look at the ads; you can't choose to get a newspaper that doesn't have those ads. Ditto with billboards. You aren't obligated to look at them, but you also can't put up a giant white screen over every billboard you don't want to see, nor can you otherwise deface or vandalize them. The advertisers are paying to use that space.

I would not equate "holding my thumb up between me and the billboard" to "putting a giant white screen over the billboard". What I would be doing, what adblock does, is fundamentally "what do I choose to see"? It affects no one else's viewing experience. It affects the site owners only because it illustrates to them how poorly and lazily they chose their ads.

This isn't a thread about laws, this is a thread about ethics. Yes, copyright infringement is in most places, illegal. Does that make a difference to the ethics of the situation? If copyright infringement was legal, or, if it is was (as it currently is, more or less) de facto legal, do you feel that would change the arguments for why people should or shouldn't do it? Likewise, the fact that AdBlocker is currently legal does not mean that it is necessarily ethical to use it, nor does it mean that it would necessarily be unethical to use it if it later became illegal to do so.

I know the wording was weird, but I did mean to be talking about ethics. With piracy, there is a known, explicit contract/law that you are breaking. With tip jars, there is at least an unwritten "code" of what you should do. Websites do not have that set up at all -- indeed, they're not even all in consensus about whether they consider it harmful to themselves to block their ads.
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Oct 21, 2014 2:55 pm UTC

ucim wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:n the other hand, a significant majority of websites rely on advertising as their primary source of revenue. [...]websites are directly losing revenue as a result [of ad blocking]. In effect, one could argue that this is much the same as illegal file-sharing...
... and such a one would be wrong.

Ask: Am I permitted to choose what I read, and what I don't read?

Ask: Am I obligated to ensure that websites make money?

If the answer is "no, no", then the case is closed. If either answer is "yes", we have something to discuss.

The difference between ad blocking and file sharing is that in the first case I'm choosing for myself. In the other case I'm choosing for others.

Jose


You are not required to do so, but sometimes propriety goes beyond obligations. If someone routinely gives you things you enjoy at no costs, it's generally considered reasonable to give back to some degree.

The particular form need not be ads. If a webcomic author provides you with entertainment, maybe you give back by buying his book or something. That will probably give him a LOT of ads worth of money.

The level of giving back is, of course, entirely dependant on the value they provide. Comics I read daily evidently have some value to me. Some piece of garbage clickbait covered in pop over ads and what not...significantly less so.

Me, I choose not to use adblock. If a site is covered in terrible ads, I view that as a good reason to just not support that site at all.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby ucim » Tue Oct 21, 2014 3:35 pm UTC

LaserGuy wrote:In a newspaper, you can choose not to look at the ads; you can't choose to get a newspaper that doesn't have those ads. Ditto with billboards. You aren't obligated to look at them, but you also can't put up a giant white screen over every billboard you don't want to see, nor can you otherwise deface or vandalize them. The advertisers are paying to use that space.
The difference is that putting up a white screen prevents others from seeing the billboard. That would be unethical. However I can certainly put my thumb up so that I don't have to look at it.

Adblock operates on my computer, and only affects what I see. It's totally ethical.

AdBlast, otoh, sends a signal to the server that causes it to erase the ad server side, so that nobody sees it. That would be unethical. Don't confuse the two.

Likewise, if a server reaches into my computer and extracts private information so that it can make its marketing more effective, that is unethical on their part. (Tracking cookies, I'm looking at you). If I protect myself from this kind of theft of privacy, I am well justified, even if it means that the website that tried to steal information from me does not get to make a profit by selling me to the next advertiser.

Note: AdBlast does not exist, though sometimes I wish it did. :)

Jose
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby mousewiz » Tue Oct 21, 2014 4:47 pm UTC

I run NoScript because it is basically necessary from a security perspective. I don't even whitelist sites I browse frequently unless some feature I want to use (eg, comments) *at that moment* requires it. If I don't care about comments at the moment, they stay hidden. This results in a ton of ads either being blocked completely or being made less annoying, but that's just a (sometimes happy, sometimes unfortunate) side effect of protecting myself from identity theft.

I don't run AdBlock because:
1) After NoScript gets rid of the particularly awful stuff, the stuff that remains isn't so bad. YouTube ads are about the only ones that stay particularly annoying, but it's also the site that is particularly expensive to run, so it gets a pass.
2) Most sites I frequent are sites I'd like to see remain profitable.

That said, I don't consider it unethical to run AdBlock. I just consider it to be not in my best interest*. I think an opponent would be hard pressed to demonstrate that I have an obligation to ensure websites I visit remain profitable. If we do the Kant thing and imagine a world where everyone uses AdBlock, either *enough* content would continue to exist ad free for me to not care about the "lost" content (particularly because I'd be ignorant of said content), or websites would adapt and implement unblockable ads (which would leave me in about my current situation). If we do the utilitarian thing, as mentioned, I consider the utility of ads to be a net positive as I get slightly more entertainment for slightly more annoyance, but only barely; definitely not by enough gain that I'd consider forcing my beliefs on others who sit on the other side of the fence (as doing so would subtract significant utility, imho).

Unlike ucim, I'd say my views of piracy and AdBlock, and tip jars, for that matter, are about the same. Again, if we do the Kant thing, it's quite clear that artists are going to create art regardless of piracy. Probably not all of them or to the same scale, but enough and to enough of a scale for my tastes. Again with utilitarianism, I consider it in my best interest to pay for content, but not by enough to claim there is a duty to pay for all content (and I'm galaxies away from claiming the duty is so strong that we should force all content be paid). Software might come with a (possibly unenforceable) contract, but most people who pirate things don't actually agree to that contract in the first place, so it's tough to argue that they have an obligation to uphold the terms of the thing they didn't agree to.

* In the sense that eating ice cream is sometimes in my best interest and sometimes not. Not in the sense that in another thread I might argue that all ethics boil down to "best interest" if pursued far enough.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby sam_i_am » Wed Oct 22, 2014 3:36 pm UTC

The reason why I use adblock is because ads can sometime contain malware.

I don't mind having to look at ads, but when I turn adblock off, I feel more at risk

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby jstylen » Wed Oct 22, 2014 7:36 pm UTC

I sort of see ads as a way of tipping the owner(s) of the site, producer of the content, etc. I disable adblock for sites that I frequent. And I definitely disable it on YouTube. YouTube has horribly annoying ads, especially near election season, but it almost feels like stealing when I use it there. A lot of these video creators are literally making a living off of their ad revenue. Of course its not actually stealing, but ethically I feel bad about not taking 20 seconds to play an ad when they put hours of work into the video.

Of course there's always exceptions. There are sites that I use often but still run adblock because the ads are just so obnoxious. We've all seen the horrible fake download buttons and whatnot. I don't feel bad blocking that crap at all since they are already breaking ethical boundaries, IMO, by trying to trick me to click on them.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby Isaac Hill » Sat Oct 25, 2014 6:35 pm UTC

My understanding of how on-line advertising works is that when you go to a site, a third party ad server looks at your cookies/browsing history/whatever to determine your relevant info. The ad server then sends that info to the ad providers, which respond with how much they're willing to pay to show their ad to you. Whoever offers the most has their ad shown.

I'm sure it's more complicated than that, but it seems like you don't know what ad you're going to see until you visit the site. It could be benign, a series of pop-ups that disrupts your current web browsing session, or malware that does more permanent damage to your computer. You don't know what you're agreeing to, or the risk you're exposing your computer to, until after you've already agreed and exposed. I'd liken that to an EULA contained within the shrink wrap, that you can't read until after you've purchased the software. Those aren't just ethically suspect, but legally suspect as well.

You don't know in advance which ads you'll see, which ad server any site uses, or the vetting process involved (if any) to prevent malware. Since the only way to browse the web without unwittingly exposing yourself to ad-based risk is to preemptively block ads, AdBlock is ethical.

If this causes a problem, the fault lies with the complexity and lack of acountability of the ad selection process. If an on-line ad consisted of an html img tag that showed a picture of a Ford, and an href tag so that if you clicked the picture, it would you take you to the relevant page on ford.com, would Adblock stop that? Would anyone mind if it didn't?
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby Cleverbeans » Sat Oct 25, 2014 11:40 pm UTC

I consider advertising a form of mind control, and as such I believe it's a deeply unethical practice and should be stopped at all costs. I think it's morally correct to use adblock because it actively harms an evil industry.
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby ucim » Sun Oct 26, 2014 2:18 am UTC

It's more than that. The purveyors of websites are actively trying to get us to be complacent in the face of more and more abuse. I can't even count the number of sites that simply do not work unless you allow scripts to run on your computer (and you don't know where those scripts are coming from, and what they are doing). If we don't push back, we will be mowed down.

Jose
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby duckshirt » Wed Oct 29, 2014 5:31 am UTC

Cleverbeans wrote:I consider advertising a form of mind control, and as such I believe it's a deeply unethical practice and should be stopped at all costs. I think it's morally correct to use adblock because it actively harms an evil industry.

What's unethical about it? Your mind is influenced by ALL stimuli, not just advertising.
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby KrytenKoro » Wed Oct 29, 2014 3:42 pm UTC

duckshirt wrote:
Cleverbeans wrote:I consider advertising a form of mind control, and as such I believe it's a deeply unethical practice and should be stopped at all costs. I think it's morally correct to use adblock because it actively harms an evil industry.

What's unethical about it? Your mind is influenced by ALL stimuli, not just advertising.

That it is consciously designed to influence the viewer into performing acts (making purchases, clicking links, etc.) that are harmful to the viewer?
From the elegant yelling of this compelling dispute comes the ghastly suspicion my opposition's a fruit.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby sam_i_am » Wed Oct 29, 2014 3:48 pm UTC

KrytenKoro wrote:
duckshirt wrote:
Cleverbeans wrote:I consider advertising a form of mind control, and as such I believe it's a deeply unethical practice and should be stopped at all costs. I think it's morally correct to use adblock because it actively harms an evil industry.

What's unethical about it? Your mind is influenced by ALL stimuli, not just advertising.

That it is consciously designed to influence the viewer into performing acts (making purchases, clicking links, etc.) that are harmful to the viewer?


What about adds that are consciously designed to influence the viewer into performing acts (making purchases, clicking links, etc.) that are not harmful to the viewer?

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby CorruptUser » Wed Oct 29, 2014 3:56 pm UTC

People do things that they believe to be their benefit. Good advertising is about informing people about products and services that would benefit them the most. This is not in itself a bad thing; the best product in the world is worthless if people don't know its worth; the "build a better mousetrap" story is utter bullshit.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Oct 29, 2014 4:58 pm UTC

sam_i_am wrote:
KrytenKoro wrote:
duckshirt wrote:
Cleverbeans wrote:I consider advertising a form of mind control, and as such I believe it's a deeply unethical practice and should be stopped at all costs. I think it's morally correct to use adblock because it actively harms an evil industry.

What's unethical about it? Your mind is influenced by ALL stimuli, not just advertising.

That it is consciously designed to influence the viewer into performing acts (making purchases, clicking links, etc.) that are harmful to the viewer?


What about adds that are consciously designed to influence the viewer into performing acts (making purchases, clicking links, etc.) that are not harmful to the viewer?


I don't think all advertising is unethical, but it's entirely reasonable for someone to decide that the bad ads outweight any expected gain from positive ads. Given reality, that seems...extraordinarily probable.

But no, advertising isn't mind control, any more than reading a book is mind control.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby Cleverbeans » Wed Oct 29, 2014 5:30 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:But no, advertising isn't mind control, any more than reading a book is mind control.

Reading a book is voluntary though it's not being done against will. Advertisements are designed to be intrusive. I don't object to say, putting an advertisement on your website so that if I go to the website seeking information about a product but anywhere outside those confines and I consider it unethical. Also, advertising tactics are unethical. They're designed to evoke a strong emotional response that you attach to their product instead of trying to rationally explain the benefits of the product. To do this advertisers routinely lie and misrepresent their product and play on our most base instincts. There are plenty of advertisements that are strictly meant to annoy you so that you remember the product. Stupid people and children are particularly vulnerable to this sort of manipulation and that's one of the major reasons I feel it's unethical because it disproportionately takes advantage of this. Any good product can rely on word of mouth to encourage people to purchase it, but advertising attempts to circumvent rational discourse and that's shady as fuck.
"Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration." - Abraham Lincoln

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby CorruptUser » Wed Oct 29, 2014 7:41 pm UTC

Personally I oppose using mediums of communication as advertisements. Snail mail, phones, e-mail, knocking on my door. Those should never be allowed. Yet for some reason we do. All else is fine because you can ignore it if you don't like it. You can't ignore your phone.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby jules.LT » Thu Oct 30, 2014 12:08 am UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:advertising isn't mind control, any more than reading a book is mind control.

No, it's mind pollution.
It floods your brain with pointless, unsollicited messages in hope that you'll be the one in a thousand that will actually be convinced to buy.
Like we don't have enough messages and information to deal with already in this day and age...

I much prefer to tip.
Bertrand Russell wrote:Not to be absolutely certain is, I think, one of the essential things in rationality.
Richard Feynman & many others wrote:Keep an open mind – but not so open that your brain falls out

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby ucim » Thu Oct 30, 2014 2:01 am UTC

jules.LT wrote:No, it's mind pollution.
Well put. But there's an asymmetry here that is only getting worse. Advertisers in general have a much better handle on how your mind works than you do. They have leverage against you which is increasing the more psychology they learn, and the more data they can analyze. It's perfectly ethical to fight back.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Oct 30, 2014 1:54 pm UTC

jules.LT wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:advertising isn't mind control, any more than reading a book is mind control.

No, it's mind pollution.
It floods your brain with pointless, unsollicited messages in hope that you'll be the one in a thousand that will actually be convinced to buy.
Like we don't have enough messages and information to deal with already in this day and age...

I much prefer to tip.


There has always been this. Not everything that enters your head is solicited. I dare say that this standard is actually dangerous. Imagine if people had a right to NOT hear opposing viewpoints or what not. Crazy.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby KrytenKoro » Thu Oct 30, 2014 3:01 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:
jules.LT wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:advertising isn't mind control, any more than reading a book is mind control.

No, it's mind pollution.
It floods your brain with pointless, unsollicited messages in hope that you'll be the one in a thousand that will actually be convinced to buy.
Like we don't have enough messages and information to deal with already in this day and age...

I much prefer to tip.


There has always been this. Not everything that enters your head is solicited. I dare say that this standard is actually dangerous. Imagine if people had a right to NOT hear opposing viewpoints or what not. Crazy.

I'm not quite sure where the problem would be here, unless we're once again conflating "choose not to intake" with "prevent from being output".

Yeah, when talking in the idealistic sense, being close minded would result in fallacious decisions, bias, and likely bigotry. However, in the real world, where the great majority of the information thrust at you is total, toxic bullshit designed specifically to exploit the foibles of how your brain processes and prioritizes information...I don't see the problem with deciding "maybe it would be healthier if I chose to listen to the IPCC instead of Alex Jones".
From the elegant yelling of this compelling dispute comes the ghastly suspicion my opposition's a fruit.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby jules.LT » Thu Oct 30, 2014 3:04 pm UTC

Yeah.
In the XXIst century, the message overflow has gone to unprecedented levels.
Communication has never been so massive and invasive, with so little regard for the interests of those who get caught in the crossfire between the marketer and its intended target.
Bertrand Russell wrote:Not to be absolutely certain is, I think, one of the essential things in rationality.
Richard Feynman & many others wrote:Keep an open mind – but not so open that your brain falls out

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Oct 30, 2014 5:37 pm UTC

KrytenKoro wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:
jules.LT wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:advertising isn't mind control, any more than reading a book is mind control.

No, it's mind pollution.
It floods your brain with pointless, unsollicited messages in hope that you'll be the one in a thousand that will actually be convinced to buy.
Like we don't have enough messages and information to deal with already in this day and age...

I much prefer to tip.


There has always been this. Not everything that enters your head is solicited. I dare say that this standard is actually dangerous. Imagine if people had a right to NOT hear opposing viewpoints or what not. Crazy.

I'm not quite sure where the problem would be here, unless we're once again conflating "choose not to intake" with "prevent from being output".

Yeah, when talking in the idealistic sense, being close minded would result in fallacious decisions, bias, and likely bigotry. However, in the real world, where the great majority of the information thrust at you is total, toxic bullshit designed specifically to exploit the foibles of how your brain processes and prioritizes information...I don't see the problem with deciding "maybe it would be healthier if I chose to listen to the IPCC instead of Alex Jones".


If can choose not to read/listen to non commercial messages, the same is absolutely true of commercial ones. There is no difference. The inclusion of money does not turn a thing into freaking mind control.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby KrytenKoro » Thu Oct 30, 2014 7:28 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:
KrytenKoro wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:
jules.LT wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:advertising isn't mind control, any more than reading a book is mind control.

No, it's mind pollution.
It floods your brain with pointless, unsollicited messages in hope that you'll be the one in a thousand that will actually be convinced to buy.
Like we don't have enough messages and information to deal with already in this day and age...

I much prefer to tip.


There has always been this. Not everything that enters your head is solicited. I dare say that this standard is actually dangerous. Imagine if people had a right to NOT hear opposing viewpoints or what not. Crazy.

I'm not quite sure where the problem would be here, unless we're once again conflating "choose not to intake" with "prevent from being output".

Yeah, when talking in the idealistic sense, being close minded would result in fallacious decisions, bias, and likely bigotry. However, in the real world, where the great majority of the information thrust at you is total, toxic bullshit designed specifically to exploit the foibles of how your brain processes and prioritizes information...I don't see the problem with deciding "maybe it would be healthier if I chose to listen to the IPCC instead of Alex Jones".


If can choose not to read/listen to non commercial messages, the same is absolutely true of commercial ones. There is no difference. The inclusion of money does not turn a thing into freaking mind control.

Correct, it can totally be "mind control" when money isn't involved.

The profit motive just gives that extra little incentive for the communicator to further lie to the audience, to further exploit psychological quirks, in order to accomplish their goal. When companies are gleefully lobbying for the "right to lie" to the consumer, when "fraudulent advertising" is even a thing that it is possible to do, it's very difficult to claim that they're not attempting to manipulate the audience's understanding of reality.

Let's be serious here: when "Neuromarketing" is a standard industry practice, or in other words, when companies measure the specific neural response to advertisement in order to tailor the advertising to produce the desired response in the brain", how does it make any sense to not call that mind control? That's...almost directly the definition of control theory and engineering. There are [i]much simpler and more efficient ways to control a system than by actually taking apart the black box and rebuilding it.

Is advertising fundamentally unethical? No, it's totally possible to have honest advertising that's designed simply to communicate a rational argument, instead of to prey upon mental weakness. Is that what, by and large, succesful advertising uses? Hell no.
From the elegant yelling of this compelling dispute comes the ghastly suspicion my opposition's a fruit.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Oct 30, 2014 8:33 pm UTC

How is neuromarketing different from fast food companies doing the exact same thing to determine the combinations of grease substitutes and salt to bring maximum pleasure to your think bladder when you cram your noise hole?

And besides, while theoretically possible I highly doubt we've actually reached the point where we even can use MRI scans to determine advertising. For starters, MRI's don't measure brain activity; they measure blood flow. They notice that during activity X, region A of the brain gets more blood. It's not particularly accurate for any but the largest of sample sizes, and it just means that activity X causes region A to activate, doesn't mean you get the response you want out of your consumer-creatures.
Last edited by CorruptUser on Thu Oct 30, 2014 8:52 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby Cleverbeans » Thu Oct 30, 2014 8:46 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:How is neuromarketing different from fast food companies doing the exact same thing to determine the combinations of grease substitutes and salt to bring maximum pleasure to your think bladder when you cram your noise hole?

I don't really see any important difference. Both are designed to maximize consumption instead of utility. I think it's about as ethical as selling heroin.
"Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration." - Abraham Lincoln

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Oct 30, 2014 9:01 pm UTC

And how is that morally different from using hundreds of focus groups to determine the ad that does the same thing? Using the flavorist example, the old method was using thousands of random combinations of spices and ingredients to hope for what makes the best panini, versus the new method of using computer models to determine the exact amount of ingredients and spice for the perfect panini.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Oct 30, 2014 9:04 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:How is neuromarketing different from fast food companies doing the exact same thing to determine the combinations of grease substitutes and salt to bring maximum pleasure to your think bladder when you cram your noise hole?

And besides, while theoretically possible I highly doubt we've actually reached the point where we even can use MRI scans to determine advertising. For starters, MRI's don't measure brain activity; they measure blood flow. They notice that during activity X, region A of the brain gets more blood. It's not particularly accurate for any but the largest of sample sizes, and it just means that activity X causes region A to activate, doesn't mean you get the response you want out of your consumer-creatures.


This. It's not mind control in any real sense. It's...a very small amount of feedback. And calling it industry standard is a little much. It exists. It's not as if every ad agency has a pile of folks around to test endlessly. Merely designing more effective ads does not amount to mind control. Yes, everyone wants their ads to be more effective. They always have. Even the dude hawking stuff on a street corner is going to adapt his pitch. Or the charity asking for donations, or whatever. Everything is trying to evolve to be more effective all of the time. That is utterly normal for life.

The phrase "mind control" implies a loss of agency for the one being controlled. This isn't the case. Determining what someone wants is wildly different from forcing him to do something.


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