Ethics of AdBlock

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Tyndmyr
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Sep 09, 2015 7:46 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:Which speaks to the Times but not to the cable. Which example is moral or right and which isn't. And I buy content that suits what I want and is presented to me in a way that makes sense. And have no compunction about using content if it is free to use(ad supported). Neither do I have any compunction about blocking the ads if it suits me. I suppose you could say that if people had not pirated music than the music industry would never have been forced to the new paradigm. The same for film. And I like how it is now versus how it was when I was young. In effect the public screamed at them. That caused winners and losers, but what the hell.

And the ad companies are as much responsible for the pain as the consumer. They are nasty and invasive. The set up routes for malware. I suppose under the paradigm that you suggest I should be ashamed of blocking both Java and Flash by default.


If they're presenting you with a deal you want, cheers. Take it. With ads, without ads, cable, online, whatever. If you don't like it, don't take the deal. It's that simple, really.

Me, I don't get cable at all. I'd rather just buy the coupla shows I care about on iTunes or flip on netflix, because I perceive the value of cable as fairly low for what's delivered. You can do that or not. Whichever. But not buying is the real driver. If you're still handing them money, why do they care about your opinion? If you're leaching content and not providing income at all, why should they value you? You're not a customer then, you're a cost.

Me, I'm a customer. Just not theirs.

morriswalters
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby morriswalters » Thu Sep 10, 2015 12:00 am UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:If you're leaching content and not providing income at all, why should they value you? You're not a customer then, you're a cost.
How would they know? About me being a cost? I suppose what you mean is they go out of business if I block ads. Piss poor business plan on their part wouldn't you say. Letting me get away with it? Kind of like a big box store leaving the doors open at night, and putting a sign up saying you did so. Instead I'm supposed to feel bad? Okay, I feel bad.

About cable. Happy for you. I find that by manipulating the cable company I get access to most things I care about for a minimum price. I also have Netflix and Amazon and a few of its services. I pay for content. But I don't pay unless I have to, and unless a business makes it impossible to do otherwise. So I don't torrent video or music because business figured out that if they wanted to monetize their product they should give it to me in a way I want to consume. And that's what happened. So like I said they need to figure it out.

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LaserGuy
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby LaserGuy » Thu Sep 10, 2015 6:11 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:If you're leaching content and not providing income at all, why should they value you? You're not a customer then, you're a cost.


How would they know? About me being a cost?


Websites know that you have visited them because you've connected to their server. Server upkeep costs are (very) roughly proportional to the traffic.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby elasto » Thu Sep 10, 2015 6:56 am UTC

Another point to throw into the mix; According to this article, around 5% of users employ an ad-blocker.

Whether using an ad-blocker is ethical or not, if that small a loss in potential ad-revenue causes a website to go under, they had a failed business model to begin with.

Once again: This is not the 2000s; You can't just throw any old content on the web, slap on ads and expect to make a profit. That business model is becoming increasingly non-viable. Just like the music companies had to move with the times and shift to an all-you-can-eat streaming model, so websites will have shift to new models that cover their costs without annoying their userbase.

Again, from that article:

Teesside-based developer Dean Murphy plans to sell the extension Crystal for about £3 and let its users create and maintain their own white lists. He intends to sell his ad-blocking extension via Apple's App Store

"A lot of websites I love rely on ad revenue, but at the back of my mind I just think advertising needs to change," he explains. "There's so many terrible ads out there that auto-load videos, and show lots of images and lots of banners. And there's often multiple ad networks being used on a single page. I tested 10 popular news websites: With Crystal enabled they loaded four times quicker and used half the amount of data."


I'm sorry, ethical or not, users will always shift to the most convenient, least annoying form of consuming content - and it's unrealistic to assume everyone will have the same ethics you do.

The music industry resisted for years, sticking with the old model, until they finally relented; Now they are earning more money than ever. The same will be true here.

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Azrael
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby Azrael » Thu Sep 10, 2015 12:07 pm UTC

KrytenKoro wrote:
Azrael wrote:The practical difference between muting or ignoring the ads on TV and using adblock is that one of those prevents the content creator from being paid.

You just keep repeating that one is acceptable, and the other one is abhorrent...

... and oh my lawrd it's so terrible how those conscientious site runners are losing revenue despite doing everything right...

The differentiation is simple and (as pointed out early) you even quoted it. Adblock denies content creators the revenue stream they have affixed as the "bill" that comes with reading their content. You can feel however you want about blocking those ads, up to and including spinning defensive hyperbole when someone points out the bottom line of what you're doing.

What I'm saying isn't supported is ucim's claim that the presence of (any) ads that consume your attention or time are stealing from you.

No one here has supported a content creator that includes ads which by any extension could make a computer go "tits up", or denied a user justification for protecting themselves.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby morriswalters » Thu Sep 10, 2015 2:42 pm UTC

Certainly the advertisers steal time. If a site takes three times as long to load then they've taken that extra time. If the bandwidth I'm paying for costs me per byte, then they are stealing bandwidth.

I've toyed with the idea of setting up linux distribution on read only device which only uses ram for local storage, for all of my web browsing needs. Remove my persistence in the world. Would that be immoral? I wish I could do that with Windows.

Tyndmyr
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Sep 10, 2015 3:12 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:If you're leaching content and not providing income at all, why should they value you? You're not a customer then, you're a cost.
How would they know? About me being a cost? I suppose what you mean is they go out of business if I block ads. Piss poor business plan on their part wouldn't you say. Letting me get away with it? Kind of like a big box store leaving the doors open at night, and putting a sign up saying you did so. Instead I'm supposed to feel bad? Okay, I feel bad.

About cable. Happy for you. I find that by manipulating the cable company I get access to most things I care about for a minimum price. I also have Netflix and Amazon and a few of its services. I pay for content. But I don't pay unless I have to, and unless a business makes it impossible to do otherwise. So I don't torrent video or music because business figured out that if they wanted to monetize their product they should give it to me in a way I want to consume. And that's what happened. So like I said they need to figure it out.


Why does it matter if they can or can't? "nobody knows I did it" is a shitty ethical argument.

elasto wrote:Another point to throw into the mix; According to this article, around 5% of users employ an ad-blocker.

Whether using an ad-blocker is ethical or not, if that small a loss in potential ad-revenue causes a website to go under, they had a failed business model to begin with.


That is probably the case. Anyone blaming that probably also had other factors at play.

But still, that doesn't make it ethical. Stores can exist with a small percentage of shoplifters, too, but that doesn't make it ethical to shoplift.

morriswalters wrote:Certainly the advertisers steal time. If a site takes three times as long to load then they've taken that extra time. If the bandwidth I'm paying for costs me per byte, then they are stealing bandwidth.


Uh, you're the one making the request. They're not forcing the content on you.

This is like claiming a bundle deal at walmart is FORCING me to buy the salsa I dislike to go with the chips I want. I could, yknow...not shop at walmart.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby morriswalters » Thu Sep 10, 2015 3:47 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Why does it matter if they can or can't? "nobody knows I did it" is a shitty ethical argument.
Yes. It is. However it is how the real world works. Call me when it functions otherwise. I'll give you an example. Phone companies always used to round off your call to the next highest minute. Made them a nice tidy little piece of change. Pretty shitty ethically IMO, however perfectly legal.
Tyndmyr wrote:Uh, you're the one making the request. They're not forcing the content on you.
Yes. And No. They want me to read the content. To see if the content is worth anything I first have to read it. To read it I have to load the ads. And I, and for that matter they, have no idea how much bandwidth and time that consumes. And the advertiser doesn't care. Her hosting costs don't factor in. She doesn't pay to download the ads, she just hosts links, the cost devolves to me. Or am I missing something. Can she refund me if her content is shitty? This is why I love books, I can leaf through the pages without paying a toll for the boon. Even Amazon lets you read samples. Amazon wants my business so bad that they put in cell phone in my Kindle to let me access their content at my convenience.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby ucim » Thu Sep 10, 2015 6:06 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:What I'm saying isn't supported is ucim's claim that the presence of (any) ads that consume your attention or time are stealing from you.
I'm saying that in the same way that music companies say that listening to a song for free is stealing from the artist. It's not, in fact, depriving the artist of their song. The concept of theft had to be expanded to include this, and there are some that still think that it's ok to listen to music without paying for it. The same is true here - theft of attention is a concept that is worth considering, whether or not there is some prior agreement as to the value of your attention. This is especially true when your attention is being taken in underhanded ways. The difference is that it's easy for companies to steal your attention, but it's not easy to steal a company's attention. So, the money will not back this idea, where it will back the concept of theft of intellectual property.

Azrael wrote:No one here has supported a content creator that includes ads which by any extension could make a computer go "tits up", or denied a user justification for protecting themselves.
Not all computers are modern fast and capable. Simple flash can make my laptop go TU. I am not obligated to buy a new computer just so websites can show their ads to me when I visit them.

morriswalters wrote:I've toyed with the idea of setting up linux distribution on read only device which only uses ram for local storage, for all of my web browsing needs. Remove my persistence in the world. Would that be immoral? I wish I could do that with Windows.
Set up a RAM disk and point your browser to it.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby KrytenKoro » Thu Sep 10, 2015 6:32 pm UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:You make it sound like Azrael simply keeps repeating this without citing any reason in favor of his claim. But in fact you've just directly quoted a reason that he gives.

Then I need it clarified, because I'm not sure I understand it in the context of everything else he's saying. Is it solely that the TV advertiser has to hope that their ads will be seen, while the web advertiser can actually check? If that's the case...I can at least see the mechanical difference, but not an ethical one of any relevance (see below) that would support his other points. Really, it feels to me like the consumer is just knocking the web advertiser back down to the same non-privacy-invasive peg that the print and cable advertiser has to deal with.

If we're making it a discussion of specific technical differences, and "well, the consumer just has to choose to accept or decline the implicit social contract"...as has been pointed out many times, and is the fundamental point of the "quoted differentiation", the advertisers (and content creators) have the ability to detect if the ads are actually viewed. The idea that consumers should be expected to understand that "ads are the price for viewing the page" and just choose not to consume freely displayed content if they dislike that agreement is no more reasonable than the idea that creators should be expected to understand that "if they only want ad-viewers to consumer their content, they should actually pay their web developer to code their site correctly" and just choose not to display content freely if they don't want it consumed freely. I'd actually say it's a bit less reasonable, given the surrounding environment of objectively malicious ads that make adblock a reasonable self-defense measure.

You can't have your "implicit social contract" put all responsibility for its creation on the consumer and none on the creator. They're both responsible for its contents. (Hell, there's probably something to be said for our example content creators choosing to base their revenue stream on a medium that is famously malicious and notoriously abused in the first place.)

I don't agree with ucim's point that an ad necessarily constitutes theft, but a significant portion, if not the majority, of internet ads are certainly invasive and acquire personal data without informed consent.

No one here has supported a content creator that includes ads which by any extension could make a computer go "tits up", or denied a user justification for protecting themselves.

The computer I'm having to use right now has had Chrome crash every fifteen minutes just from the load created by this site, much less when I load a page like Cracked with actual ads.

There's plenty of types of computer in the world.
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby Chen » Thu Sep 10, 2015 6:38 pm UTC

ucim wrote:Not all computers are modern fast and capable. Simple flash can make my laptop go TU. I am not obligated to buy a new computer just so websites can show their ads to me when I visit them.


Wouldn't the solution be to stop going to the site then? I'm not sure why people feel they're entitled to have their cake and eat it too. You like the contents of some website but dislike their obnoxious advertising. Seems the choice should be to either accept the obnoxious advertising, giving them whatever ad revenue they get and get your content, or reject the advertising, deny them the ad revenue and not get the content. It shouldn't be reject the advertising, deny them revenue and still take the content.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby Twistar » Thu Sep 10, 2015 6:46 pm UTC

I think this conversation would get on a lot better if everyone stopped talking about stealing. Yes, you can construe the users of adblock as stealing content from the webpages without "paying the bill" of being exposed to the advertising and you can also construe the advertisers as "stealing time" from the users.

However, in my opinion those are both extremely tenuous arguments that gloss over any real ethical considerations into the word "stealing" since obviously stealing is bad. As I've said (and has been ignored multiple times) there is no contract between the (content consumers) and (content producers + advertisers) so it really doesn't make sense to talk about one stealing from the other. If there is an implicit contract it obviously isn't very clear because otherwise we wouldn't be having this discussion.

Compare to shoplifting. You don't sign a contract with a mall or a store when you walk in the doors, but there is still a strong implicit contract that you shouldn't steal (reinforced by the justice system and laws...) There is no such equivalent implicit contract that says "you must be exposed to this advertising if you want to see the contract." Rather, there is an implicit ASSUMPTION on the part of the (content producers + advertisers) that they are going to make money from consumers being exposed to their advertisements.

It is my opinion that this assumption must now be revisited by (content producers + advertisers) if they want to mitigate revenue losses from technology like ad-block. It is also my opinion that this is a natural evolution of this particular market and the internet itself that should not be somehow regulated. I see this as a free market issue.

Put aside the question of ad-block being ethical or not for a moment and say we're not going to put any rules on any of this stuff (which is in-step with how the internet has usually been run.) In the past there was a business model where (content producers + advertisers) could put ads up and generate revenue. There was no question about users seeing those ads. Users didn't really opt in to seeing ads and they didn't have technology (or care as much about) to opt out of seeing ads. They just went to webpages. Now, lets say users start using ad-block in large percentages. Presumably this will compromise the revenue stream of the (content producers + advertisers). Since we've already established (in this hypothetical) that nothing is going to be regulated, what will the (content producers + advertisers) do? They have a plethora of choices. They can require users to pay money to see the content. They can block users who are using ad-block from seeing their content. They can investigate other revenue streams such as selling merchandise. Another market force other than ad-block could be users moving away from websites with egregious advertisements and towards websites with more favorable advertisements. Again, these forces will all push (content producers + advertisers) in various (hopefully beneficial) directions. BUT ANYWAYS, my point with all of this is that (content producers + advertisers) have many options and ways to respond to the market forces I have listed. If users could use ad-block and there was nothing websites could do about it then I could see that being a problem. For me that would comparable to a user hacking their way through a paywall in a way that the website can't detect. The latter would be unethical because the (content producer + advertiser) can't respond to that force and the hacker is damaging them in a way that they can't mitigate by changing strategies. This is when I would bring in words like "stealing" and "cheating" and "unethical." But as I've described, in the case of ad-block 1) there was no prior contract and 2) (content producers + advertisers) have very obvious ways they can sidestep this issue by changing strategies. It's my prediction that if ad-blocking technology becomes more prevalent (5% probably isn't yet a big enough deal to companies) we will see a change webpages take the exact changes in strategy I have described. We will probably see things we can't predict before hand as well.

Bottom line, no one is stealing, we don't need more rules, just let things evolve freely. If you want to argue against me you need to argue that this lack of regulation will lead to bad things. THAT would be an example of an argument that shows ad-block is unethical, as opposed to tenuous comparisons to shop lifting*. Essentially the same arguments against free market capitalism hold.

*edit: I realized I make a "tenuous comparison to shop lifting" in the middle of my post so take it for what you will and call me hypocritical if you want, but I beat you to it!

edit2: A lot more words.. sorry...

KrytenKoro wrote:If we're making it a discussion of specific technical differences, and "well, the consumer just has to choose to accept or decline the implicit social contract"...as has been pointed out many times, and is the fundamental point of the "quoted differentiation", the advertisers (and content creators) have the ability to detect if the ads are actually viewed. The idea that consumers should be expected to understand that "ads are the price for viewing the page" and just choose not to consume freely displayed content if they dislike that agreement is no more reasonable than the idea that creators should be expected to understand that "if they only want ad-viewers to consumer their content, they should actually pay their web developer to code their site correctly" and just choose not to display content freely if they don't want it consumed freely. I'd actually say it's a bit less reasonable, given the surrounding environment of objectively malicious ads that make adblock a reasonable self-defense measure.


I very much agree with this. The burden should be on consumers and (content producers + advertisers). Since it would be complicated to put in rules to fairly distribute this responsibility the simplest solution is to just let the market take care of it. Users can block and avoid bad ads and (content producers + advertisers) can put up paywalls or block ad-blocking users.

The arguments people are making along the lines of denying content producers revenue by using ad-block don't make sense. You can only deny revenue if it was promised in the first place. Someone who turns the tv on mute is subtracting themselves from the advertisers potential pool of viewers but they're not "denying" advertisers revenue. The same goes for adblock. In regards to revenue for the (content producers + advertisers) I don't see a difference between someone who doesn't pay any attention to ads and someone who uses adblock.

If the advertiser doesn't count ad-block users in the site visit count then obviously they can detect ad-block and the webpage can just block those users if it really bothers them. There's another point here. If ad-block doesn't bother content producers enough for them to respond to it but it DOES bother YOU (not a content producer) because people are "cheating or stealing" then it sort of sounds like you're just trying to sit yourself up on a moral high horse..

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Thu Sep 10, 2015 8:01 pm UTC

ucim wrote:The same is true here - theft of attention is a concept that is worth considering, whether or not there is some prior agreement as to the value of your attention.

OK, so I agree that it's worth considering, but after consideration (and particularly after reading Azrael's earlier post on the matter) I think it's to be rejected.

If by "It's worth considering" you actually mean "There are good reasons for accepting this idea," I suppose you could tell us some of those reasons. Or respond to the reasons that Azrael has given for rejecting the idea.

KrytenKoro wrote:Then I need it clarified, because I'm not sure I understand it in the context of everything else he's saying. Is it solely that the TV advertiser has to hope that their ads will be seen, while the web advertiser can actually check?

The difference, as Azrael says above, is that adblock actually deprives websites of the money that they are paid for advertising, while muting the TV does not. As in, web advertising services count impressions and pay sites proportionately. If you block an ad, the site doesn't get paid for that ad. In contrast, advertisers have no record of whether you mute your TV. So long as your TV is on the channel, you will be counted as a viewer when it comes time to pay the channel. (I abstract from the details of the Nielsen system.)

KrytenKoro wrote:The idea that consumers should be expected to understand that "ads are the price for viewing the page" and just choose not to consume freely displayed content if they dislike that agreement is no more reasonable than the idea that creators should be expected to understand that "if they only want ad-viewers to consumer their content, they should actually pay their web developer to code their site correctly" and just choose not to display content freely if they don't want it consumed freely.

Even supposing that these things are equally reasonable (you simply assert this, and do not argue for it), it's not a zero-sum game. You might as well dismiss criticisms of shoplifting by saying that it's "equally reasonable" for merchants to invest in loss prevention.
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby KrytenKoro » Thu Sep 10, 2015 8:21 pm UTC

Clarifications of what I posted:

1) I agree that using adblock denies the content creator revenue based on that specific user viewing the page.
2) However, given the ecosystem of internet advertising, I feel that the implicit social contract not only acknowledges but accepts the absence of this revenue stream. Because:
a) A great proportion of ads are intrusive or malicious, in a manner wholly unlike their cable or print analogues, and the consumer is given no notice of these; in almost all cases where the ads are a meaningful revenue stream, the content creators chooses to remain ignorant of the exact ads being run until a consumer reports an issue, meaning that creators are knowingly using consumers as poison tasters, without any sort of warning beforehand.
b) The creator has the ability to easily prevent their content from being consumed by those who do not contribute to advertising clicks, so their lack of doing so is implicit acceptance of consuming their content without viewing the ads. The sheer ease of this means that a proper analogue would be leaving one's personal lunch on a buffet table and expressing outrage when it is eaten, rather than the forgetting to lock the safe inside your house scenario. Placing the blame on consumers for taking steps to protect themselves, rather than acknowledging the creators' prior abdication of reasonable responsibility and working to address the cause that adblock is a symptom of, is a deflection of the true issue.
c) The maliciousness of many ads is a well-known issue that content creators cannot reasonably pretend to be ignorant of, and by participating in the system without taking responsibility to ensure the quality of the ads used, they must take a portion of the responsibility for the ill effects of that advertising. Therefore, the onus is on them to foster an ethical advertising environment (or explore other revenue streams), pruning their ads, notifying consumers of the measures taken, and locking content to ad-viewers only, until it is no longer basic prudence and self-defense for internet users to have adblock active at all times.

Also, I rescind my comments about Chrome crashing on this computer, and "there is something to be said...", as I was not willing to fully explore those trains of thought, and should not have just waved them around and made woowoo noises.

The difference, as Azrael says above, is that adblock actually deprives websites of the money that they are paid for advertising, while muting the TV does not. As in, web advertising services count impressions and pay sites proportionately. If you block an ad, the site doesn't get paid for that ad. In contrast, advertisers have no record of whether you mute your TV. So long as your TV is on the channel, you will be counted as a viewer when it comes time to pay the channel. (I abstract from the details of the Nielsen system.)

That is a practical effect, yes, but doesn't seem relevant to whether one is ethical and the other isn't -- in fact, it seems to imply that if using adblock is unethical, then so is muting the TV, it's just that the cable advertising companies are hobbled in their ability to monitor viewership, and we can freely get away with it without them knowing why their ads aren't bringing in money. It seems like you're basically saying that muting the TV is not ethical, but doable, because the advertisers aren't going to find out that you're "stealing" from them.

The practical difference between the two makes sense, I get that, but it doesn't seem relevant to a differentiation in the ethical status of one vs. the other, which is why I'm not understanding Azrael.

Even supposing that these things are equally reasonable (you simply assert this, and do not argue for it), it's not a zero-sum game. You might as well dismiss criticisms of shoplifting by saying that it's "equally reasonable" for merchants to invest in loss prevention.

Sorry about not being clear enough. I had argued for the reasonableness of the above by noting that, supposing there is an implicit social contract in action (such that "ads must be viewed or you're stealing pageviews" could be further argued for), the social contract must take into account that the content creators choose to let their material be viewed by non-adviewers, and choose to use an ad-picking system that is well-known to result in malicious action against consumers. Their own actions must be taken into consideration when describing any sort of social contract -- they cannot be treated as unimpeachable actors.

The situations you describe aren't analogous. Shops list prices, communicate (through signs, guards, etc.) that payment is expected, and do not come up to you and insert products or, heaven forbid, electronic bugs into your shopping basket. Shops do not exist in an ecosystem where the great majority of other places to obtain your goods give them away for free.

The argument given and responded to was that there was an implicit social contract. The details that coalesce into the implicit social contract between paying for physical goods in shops do not exist in an analogous manner for viewing the web. If the majority of shops secretly sprayed mist laced with viruses into their AC systems, the social contract would probably be redefined as to whether we needed to keep paying them money for necessary goods.
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby morriswalters » Thu Sep 10, 2015 8:49 pm UTC

Someone wrote wrote:In contrast, advertisers have no record of whether you mute your TV. So long as your TV is on the channel, you will be counted as a viewer when it comes time to pay the channel. (I abstract from the details of the Nielsen system.)
Just for the record I don't think it works this way. I think the broadcasters get paid up front and Neilsen's numbers(and others) are used to set the cost of advertising. As a statistical measure. In other words you have to show your content can draw eyes. And Broadcasters and advertisers raised hell when VCR's hit the streets. They didn't like time shifting or the ability to fast forward through the commercials. And sued. And lost.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby Azrael » Thu Sep 10, 2015 11:40 pm UTC

KrytenKoro wrote:That is a practical effect, yes, but doesn't seem relevant to whether one is ethical and the other isn't ... The practical difference between the two makes sense, I get that, but it doesn't seem relevant to a differentiation in the ethical status of one vs. the other, which is why I'm not understanding Azrael.

Help me out here. Which set of normative ethics are you talking about if the practical results of your actions don't have a result on the morality of the action? Because shit, that *is* the entire argument regarding content piracy (this topic's previously invoked step brother) -- that no harm is being done. There's an actual, quantifiable loss here.

Are we really going to limit ourselves to arguing based on the virtue of your character?

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby morriswalters » Fri Sep 11, 2015 12:35 am UTC

LaserGuy wrote: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?
Since I didn't answer this when you posted I'll do so now. What are the ethics of Flash as an advertising platform? Almost without fail every site I travel to tries to get me to enable Flash. And the King of ads, Google, says it is unsafe. Yet most sites seem to use it. I block it, and currently my browser does it as a default, as does Chrome. Is that unethical? How much can you block before your ethical position weakens?

I do vote with my clicks. I never click through on any ad. I pay for a lot of my content and I don't use ad block. But I'm tired unto death of loud ads, self playing videos, rollover banners and adds built into the text and various other nausea inducing ad techniques. As a result I find that I choose to go to sites that don't use them. Flash heavy sites in particular. Google seems to manipulate search results, and I know Yahoo does. The end result is that I don't go much of anywhere, and that makes me sad. And I consider the content producers who use the ad platforms as low down as the people who produce the ads. If they don't change I suspect that there will be some kind of fallout, ads will get cheaper and people won't be able to make money off of them. Ten thousand blogs containing some kind of content is probably too many. A lot will go away.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Sep 11, 2015 2:59 pm UTC

KrytenKoro wrote:If we're making it a discussion of specific technical differences, and "well, the consumer just has to choose to accept or decline the implicit social contract"...as has been pointed out many times, and is the fundamental point of the "quoted differentiation", the advertisers (and content creators) have the ability to detect if the ads are actually viewed. The idea that consumers should be expected to understand that "ads are the price for viewing the page" and just choose not to consume freely displayed content if they dislike that agreement is no more reasonable than the idea that creators should be expected to understand that "if they only want ad-viewers to consumer their content, they should actually pay their web developer to code their site correctly" and just choose not to display content freely if they don't want it consumed freely. I'd actually say it's a bit less reasonable, given the surrounding environment of objectively malicious ads that make adblock a reasonable self-defense measure.


"If they don't want me to walk out of the store without paying, they should invest in more security" is what I'm hearing here.


Nobody is arguing that destructive ads are a bad thing, and some countermeasures may be warranted. Blocking all ads and talking about "theft of attention" is not that. I am not sure why people, when asked to defend the latter, keep jumping back to the former.

Twistar wrote:However, in my opinion those are both extremely tenuous arguments that gloss over any real ethical considerations into the word "stealing" since obviously stealing is bad. As I've said (and has been ignored multiple times) there is no contract between the (content consumers) and (content producers + advertisers) so it really doesn't make sense to talk about one stealing from the other. If there is an implicit contract it obviously isn't very clear because otherwise we wouldn't be having this discussion.


It's pretty clear. They're serving them together. It's particularly clear when a "pay for no ads" option exist. It's pretty obvious that they are not pursuing "block the ads for free" as a choice. Not understanding the proffered options, at that point, is willful ignorance.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby KrytenKoro » Fri Sep 11, 2015 4:36 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:Help me out here. Which set of normative ethics are you talking about if the practical results of your actions don't have a result on the morality of the action? Because shit, that *is* the entire argument regarding content piracy (this topic's previously invoked step brother) -- that no harm is being done. There's an actual, quantifiable loss here.

The practical effects do have a result. I'm not arguing that. I'm arguing that the fact that cable advertisers are blind to whether their ads are being received does not make blocking TV ads any more or less ethical than blocking web ads.

Either they're both acceptable or they're both not.

"If they don't want me to walk out of the store without paying, they should invest in more security" is what I'm hearing here.
I've already detailed how the situations are not remotely analogous. I'm saying "If they want to receive money for the goods, they should have told me that before shipping them to me/putting it on the potluck table." You can't seriously argue that the consumer is violating some kind of contract if no contract was ever agreed upon in the first place, or even is common enough to be expected as the default.

Nobody is arguing that destructive ads are a bad thing, and some countermeasures may be warranted. Blocking all ads and talking about "theft of attention" is not that. I am not sure why people, when asked to defend the latter, keep jumping back to the former.

I don't remember being asked to defend the latter, but for what it's worth, I have explicitly said above that I don't agree with ucim on that point:

I don't agree with ucim's point that an ad necessarily constitutes theft, but a significant portion, if not the majority, of internet ads are certainly invasive and acquire personal data without informed consent.


Whatever ill the consumer is committing by blocking ads and thus preventing the advertiser from detecting viewership, it is far outweighed by the content creator choosing to participate in and inflict upon unwitting consumers a broken, malicious system in the first place. At least with Adblock on, the site can be considered safe enough so that the consumer can view the native advertising ("Buy my book", etc.).
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 » Sat Sep 12, 2015 4:47 am UTC

So I tried Cracked without Adblock, because I like cracked. Oh my FSM. There was one ad that would auto play when you scrolled down, but when you got to it you couldn't scroll away because it would auto position itself to the too of your screen. Didn't see any other ads because I put Adblock back up. Fuck you ads, fuck you.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby Azrael » Sat Sep 12, 2015 2:17 pm UTC

KrytenKoro wrote:The practical effects do have a result. I'm not arguing that. I'm arguing that the fact that cable advertisers are blind to whether their ads are being received does not make blocking TV ads any more or less ethical than blocking web ads.

You're arguing that the practical effects have a result on the content creator, but that result doesn't effect the ethics of the action? Of course it does. Kid walks across my yard as a short cut to school vs. kid does so through my vegetable garden. Some guy target shoots in the woods against a hill vs. another guy target shooting in the woods with no backstop. The difference is entirely in the practical effects -- or even, in the probability of a practical effect. Really, go find an ethical system that claims practical effects have no impact, or some convincing counter examples.

The broadcast company is not deprived of revenue when you mute their ads. You are still providing them the revenue needed to support the creation -- it's not that they're blind to it's that it doesn't matter to them, their advertisers or the business model. The website is deprived of the revenue when a consumer uses adblock. The consumer (that is, the one taking the action in question) is causing disparate outcomes between the two examples. By that measure alone, the acts are not identical, nor are the ethics as indistinguishable.

CorruptUser wrote:So I tried Cracked without Adblock, because I like cracked. Oh my FSM. There was one ad that would auto play when you scrolled down, but when you got to it you couldn't scroll away because it would auto position itself to the too of your screen. Didn't see any other ads because I put Adblock back up. Fuck you ads, fuck you.

The key question being: Do you think your actions are entirely ethical, or are you just comfortable being slightly unethical?

Because the punchline is that everyone cheats a little. And there's a difference between being OK with that, and trying to prove that your actions are entirely legit against some ethical standard.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby morriswalters » Sat Sep 12, 2015 3:37 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:Because the punchline is that everyone cheats a little. And there's a difference between being OK with that, and trying to prove that your actions are entirely legit against some ethical standard.
That says something about ethical standards and shows that I was correct in that they have to find a way to monetize that you can't defeat. It is why stores are always manned and locks are put on doors.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby elasto » Sat Sep 12, 2015 5:30 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:The key question being: Do you think your actions are entirely ethical, or are you just comfortable being slightly unethical?

Because the punchline is that everyone cheats a little. And there's a difference between being OK with that, and trying to prove that your actions are entirely legit against some ethical standard.

I for one think my actions are broadly ethical, but I'd never claim to be perfect.

I am not going to assume a website is relying solely on ad revenue unless it tells me, because there are a hundred other ways they can make money if they care to - and they may not even care to.

If they do tell me, I will make a judgement as to whether I will whitelist it, stop visiting it, or continue to use it with ads blocked. (Because, let's face it, it'd represent something of a pathological neurosis to care about that small an ethical failing when we all suck at life in far more significant ways...)

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby Mambrino » Sat Sep 12, 2015 7:04 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:The broadcast company is not deprived of revenue when you mute their ads. You are still providing them the revenue needed to support the creation -- it's not that they're blind to it's that it doesn't matter to them, their advertisers or the business model. The website is deprived of the revenue when a consumer uses adblock. The consumer (that is, the one taking the action in question) is causing disparate outcomes between the two examples. By that measure alone, the acts are not identical, nor are the ethics as indistinguishable.


Are they not? I don't have any formal education in economics but mechanism seems quite clear.

If the small number of people who mute their TV when the ads hit in didn't do that, wouldn't they be marginally more susceptible to effects of advertisement, and thus probably buy the goods being advertised slightly more, which would be noted (if number of people muting ads is statistically significant) as increased sells per the buck paid for advertisement efforts.

The companies doing the advertisement would achieve the same sells with marginally less advertising, or increase their sells with the same ad campaign budget, or maybe it would lead to a situation where the broadcasting companies could ask marginally more money for showing the advertisements - without any additional costs for the broadcaster, it's already showing them.

To make even more clear, let us consider a hypothetical. Suppose some (suitably large number of) people who watch programmes by broadcasting company A don't watch the ads, but for some reasons those who watch broadcasting company B totally do. (Maybe people at B have found a way to vet to ads so that they are actually fun and still effective, or managed to convince their audience that they can keep airing Firefly if all the people watch the ads too and their audience buys it.) Every advertiser would note their campaigns aired on channels of B would be far more effective. If company B initially charged the same amount of money than A, every advertiser would try to buy airtime on channel B. Assuming basic market dynamics, this would lead to situation where B could charge more than A.

In other words, either the broadcasting company or the advertisers (or both) aren't making as much money as they would if some people didn't mute their ads. So someone is deprived of hypothetical revenue.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby DaBigCheez » Sat Sep 12, 2015 9:56 pm UTC

That is, however, hypothetical/possible future revenue, as opposed to the *direct, immediate* revenue being prevented by AdBlock via payment-per-ad-view.
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby Azrael » Sat Sep 12, 2015 11:44 pm UTC

Mambrino wrote:To make even more clear, let us consider a hypothetical. Suppose some (suitably large number of) people who watch programmes by broadcasting company A don't watch the ads, but for some reasons those who watch broadcasting company B totally do. Every advertiser would note their campaigns aired on channels of B would be far more effective. If company B initially charged the same amount of money than A, every advertiser would try to buy airtime on channel B. Assuming basic market dynamics, this would lead to situation where B could charge more than A.


In that I'm making an ethical argument to practicality, is your hypothetical:
a) At all realistic?
b) Falsifiable?

Because:

a) Consumers of A vs. B are not going to (by any reasonable means that I'm aware of) have vastly different mute rates, but
b) Consumers of different providers could have different spending habits (i.e. Discount Satellite Provider A vs. Monopolistic Mega Cable Company B)

and, of course:

c) Has anyone done a study of market penetration vs muting habits? Because unless said data, collected under controlled circumstances, shows that muting provides zero penetration, it still a disparate outcome than adblock, and thus, ethically dissimilar.

Feeling a bit like I've been typecast: Your hypothetical is overly contrived, and instead of arguing about the specifics let's focus on pretty much anything but that.

tl;dr: What BigCheez said.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby morriswalters » Sun Sep 13, 2015 1:44 am UTC

DaBigCheez wrote:That is, however, hypothetical/possible future revenue, as opposed to the *direct, immediate* revenue being prevented by AdBlock via payment-per-ad-view.
Not to the advertising agency or it's customers. If the ads are skipped than the calculation that created the price paid to the content producers is wrong and the people paying for the eyes don't receive that value. The metrics are easier to calculate for web advertisers but the losses are just as real when people skip commercials, or for that matter time shift. And the major networks have sued everybody in sight to keep consumers from automating that. Take a glimmer at this. A pithy quote.
While it's sweet that millions of people are watching "Revenge" on their DVRs -- the show doubles its 18-to-49 deliveries upon application of live-plus-seven-day data -- C3 ratings show that the time-shifters are also not watching the commercials much. As no guarantees are made against delayed deliveries in which the viewer skips the ads, all those bonus eyeballs may as well be filmed over with cataracts. Except for a few cases in which expanding audiences over a week can make a show a more attractive target for syndication, live-plus-seven numbers are practically meaningless.
Another pithy quote. And I believe I noted this earlier.
Which isn't to say that you can't play catch-up and support your favorite show at the same time. Video-on-demand is a perfectly fine option, as the platform typically doesn't allow for commercial avoidance, and networks are increasingly stacking more and more episodes on VOD for that very reason.
And something amusing for the end. It turns out I'm a ghost.
The moment you blow out the candles on your fiftieth birthday cake, you become an abstraction (at best) to the scores of advertisers who only wish to target 18-to-49-year-olds. Reach the superannuated 55-year mark and you're a ghost, according to many. And ghosts don't buy things (no pockets).
As a final note, notice how subdued the web page I linked to is. It's called Ad Age.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby ucim » Sun Sep 13, 2015 8:41 am UTC

Azrael wrote:The broadcast company is not deprived of revenue when you mute their ads.
Yes they are. Not directly, but for every one of you that mutes their ads, a presumed fraction of you who are Nielson viewers that week do so too. Muted ads are thus indirectly detected via the Nielson proxy. It's imperfect, but imperfection is not a moral defense.

Azrael wrote:The website is deprived of the revenue when a consumer uses adblock.
The website is deprived of the revenue when a consumer does not click through also. Is it immoral to not click through?

DaBigCheez wrote:That is, however, hypothetical/possible future revenue, as opposed to the *direct, immediate* revenue being prevented by AdBlock via payment-per-ad-view.
"Hypothetical/possible" revenue is the argument that leads to downloading songs being unethical. You might have bought a record instead.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby Azrael » Sun Sep 13, 2015 4:13 pm UTC

ucim wrote:
Azrael wrote:The website is deprived of the revenue when a consumer uses adblock.
The website is deprived of the revenue when a consumer does not click through also. Is it immoral to not click through?

Are we talking CPC, CPM or CPE? True enough that not clicking (regardless of having thick mental skin or adblock) will drop rates for CPC, but CPM is impression based and CPE are the ones you have to click out of (also blocked by Adblock). Each pays out differently. CPE or CPM are the most analogous to TV advertising.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby ucim » Sun Sep 13, 2015 4:35 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:Are we talking CPC, CPM or CPE? True enough that not clicking (regardless of having thick mental skin or adblock) will drop rates for CPC, but CPM is impression based and CPE are the ones you have to click out of (also blocked by Adblock). Each pays out differently. CPE or CPM are the most analogous to TV advertising.
It doesn't matter, because the visitor has no good way to know what metric is in use. But what I have in mind is the pay per click model that is (or was) popular.

A web page is really just a series of suggestions to the browser. It's a text file with formatting suggestions, content suggestions, external link suggestions, and suggestions to run arbitrary code against the client machine. A browser need not take those suggestions (and indeed some browsers cannot). Each external address that gets loaded up comes with its own suggestions to the browser, and so on until your browser finally crashes, or the page is displayed.

An advertisement is likewise a suggestion to the viewer, and some websites live and die by these suggestions. Isn't it then immoral not to click on those advertiser links?

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby Mambrino » Sun Sep 13, 2015 6:20 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:Feeling a bit like I've been typecast: Your hypothetical is overly contrived, and instead of arguing about the specifics let's focus on pretty much anything but that.

tl;dr: What BigCheez said.


tldr, what others ahve already said, especially about Nielsen ratings. And VCRs / other ad-skipping measures.

Of course it is, that's it's the point of it being the hypothetical (I mean, thought experiments in general). Real market scenario and dynamics would be more complicated. You could assume that companies A and B are the same company in different universes, just that consumers eagerly watch the ads in one and in the other do everything they can to skip them. However, why it would be fundamentally different from a real scenario, assuming the usual theory about how markets work are about correct?

The main point is that our assumption is advertisements are effective (it probably is backed up by science, but I'm not going to spend my day hunting for references), that's why people pay other people to show you ads. This is the very same reason why the advertisers pay content providers less if people use adblock. If the people are able to watch content on TV without watching ads, the ads certainly are being less effective. And TV ads would be more valuable if more people (the hypothetical you who mutes the ads, or real me who used to do that when I had a TV) didn't do that.

The real economic effect doesn't go anywhere even if you can only measure the effects indirectly. (Edit. To paraphrase, the only difference to internet advertisement is that they can't measure amount of views exactly, so instead of each content provider being hurt individually they are hurt collectively.)

Another contrived example. If someone set a shop in manner that you could steal from it without any realistic possibility of getting caught and the losses you cause to shop owner are only a statistic (or not even that, if there's so little shoplifters that they are hidden in the random noise). Or TV sets could report if the ads are really being watched, thus trumping Nielsen methods and being on par with internet ads?

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby ucim » Sun Sep 13, 2015 6:56 pm UTC

Given that many sites make their money by collecting your personal information (via cookies, web beacons, browser fingerprints, database correlation with other information they glean from elsewhere, and other techniques about which I have barely a clue, and then selling this information to interested parties, is it ethical to block your personal information from being collected by (for example) forging your browser fingerprint, blocking web beacons, using hosts files, and the like?

If it is ethical to protect your privacy in this manner, how is this different from using adblock to circumvent the website's desire to profit from your visit at your expense?

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby morriswalters » Sun Sep 13, 2015 9:23 pm UTC

Mambrino wrote:Another contrived example. If someone set a shop in manner that you could steal from it without any realistic possibility of getting caught and the losses you cause to shop owner are only a statistic (or not even that, if there's so little shoplifters that they are hidden in the random noise). Or TV sets could report if the ads are really being watched, thus trumping Nielsen methods and being on par with internet ads?
We have chosen as a society to say that shoplifting is wrong and codified it. No implicit contracts. And smart TV's almost certainly could and may well be doing exactly that. All sites using ads this way could use a click through to the content that asks the consumer to consent to this implicit contract. And some do. But as a guess that one click would probably cost them more revenue than ad blockers. Because the cost would be explicit.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby morriswalters » Mon Sep 14, 2015 11:46 am UTC

A friends father died last night. Browsing the online obituaries I was assaulted by inline ads, including a trip to Disney World, diet supplements and investment advice. Thank you content producer.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Sep 14, 2015 2:13 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:So I tried Cracked without Adblock, because I like cracked. Oh my FSM. There was one ad that would auto play when you scrolled down, but when you got to it you couldn't scroll away because it would auto position itself to the too of your screen. Didn't see any other ads because I put Adblock back up. Fuck you ads, fuck you.


The pop up requesting your email is particularly obnoxious, yes. I assure you, though, there are other ads.

I agree that by making ads so common/intrusive, some places are seriously annoying their customers...but people with adblock don't notice and don't respond to such changes. That'll inherently make the signal of consumer dislike somewhat weaker.

morriswalters wrote:
Azrael wrote:Because the punchline is that everyone cheats a little. And there's a difference between being OK with that, and trying to prove that your actions are entirely legit against some ethical standard.
That says something about ethical standards and shows that I was correct in that they have to find a way to monetize that you can't defeat. It is why stores are always manned and locks are put on doors.


If someone forgot to lock up a store, it is still not ethical to rob the place.

elasto wrote:I am not going to assume a website is relying solely on ad revenue unless it tells me, because there are a hundred other ways they can make money if they care to - and they may not even care to.


Solely is unimportant. It isn't okay to rob just SOME revenue streams from a store, is it?

DaBigCheez wrote:That is, however, hypothetical/possible future revenue, as opposed to the *direct, immediate* revenue being prevented by AdBlock via payment-per-ad-view.


Right. You're not required to maximize revenue to the advertiser. So long as the delivery takes place, the content provider gets his bit. There are a number of things you could do(like deliberately buying things from ads) to further improve the revenue they get in the long term, but that's above and beyond the implicit agreement.

They provide the content with the ad-view. Not only after purchase(this model does actually exist sometimes, but is rather less popular). If you're taking the deal as presented, you are not morally required to do more.

ucim wrote:Given that many sites make their money by collecting your personal information (via cookies, web beacons, browser fingerprints, database correlation with other information they glean from elsewhere, and other techniques about which I have barely a clue, and then selling this information to interested parties, is it ethical to block your personal information from being collected by (for example) forging your browser fingerprint, blocking web beacons, using hosts files, and the like?

If it is ethical to protect your privacy in this manner, how is this different from using adblock to circumvent the website's desire to profit from your visit at your expense?

Jose


Depends. If it's an up-front deal, then one should deal with it in kind. For instance, when registering for a site, giving up a certain quantity of information is obviously part of the deal.

If the information gathering is covert(for instance, as Sony did, a rootkit hidden in a purchased product), that is *not* presented as part of the deal up front, and you are under no obligation to support it. In this case, *they* are being unethical for not really sticking to an honest deal.

But trying to draw some crazy equality because it's all 'desire to profit' is nuts. Everyone wants profit. What makes the profit ethical or not is the how.

morriswalters wrote:
Mambrino wrote:Another contrived example. If someone set a shop in manner that you could steal from it without any realistic possibility of getting caught and the losses you cause to shop owner are only a statistic (or not even that, if there's so little shoplifters that they are hidden in the random noise). Or TV sets could report if the ads are really being watched, thus trumping Nielsen methods and being on par with internet ads?
We have chosen as a society to say that shoplifting is wrong and codified it. No implicit contracts. And smart TV's almost certainly could and may well be doing exactly that. All sites using ads this way could use a click through to the content that asks the consumer to consent to this implicit contract. And some do. But as a guess that one click would probably cost them more revenue than ad blockers. Because the cost would be explicit.


Ah, the good ol "ethics is driven by laws" stance.

And yet you'll no doubt complain a great deal if laws banning adblockers are passed.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby morriswalters » Mon Sep 14, 2015 5:45 pm UTC

Not a bit. Since I don't use them it won't matter.

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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby Mambrino » Mon Sep 14, 2015 9:25 pm UTC

(So originally I was just replying to the claim that there's no content provider revenue being lost if you could effectively choose not be affected by TV ads compared to using adblock to block internet ads (I don't know if we reached any agreement but anyway, I think the argument would start going in circles). Now I've actually skimmed through the most of the thread to try to not repeat any already handled points).

morriswalters wrote:
Mambrino wrote:Another contrived example. If someone set a shop in manner that you could steal from it without any realistic possibility of getting caught and the losses you cause to shop owner are only a statistic (or not even that, if there's so little shoplifters that they are hidden in the random noise). Or TV sets could report if the ads are really being watched, thus trumping Nielsen methods and being on par with internet ads?
We have chosen as a society to say that shoplifting is wrong and codified it. No implicit contracts. And smart TV's almost certainly could and may well be doing exactly that. All sites using ads this way could use a click through to the content that asks the consumer to consent to this implicit contract. And some do. But as a guess that one click would probably cost them more revenue than ad blockers. Because the cost would be explicit.


Well, my point wasn't to say much anything about implicit contracts but whether there is a fundamental or less real effect on revenue stream if you just couldn't measure which users manage not to watch the ads attached to the content (thus, I argue "muting TV ads is OK but adblock isn't OK because of revenue lost" is an inconsistent position.) Personally I wouldn't equate shoplifting to adblocking because of this and other reasons, and as a moral norm "skipping the ads is not ethical" is quite absurd (I'll try to explain my point).

--

Let's first talk about implicit contracts in general. The important thing is that unless it's made explicit, you may well be the only one who assumes the contract is in place: the other party may very well think they haven't entered any contract at all, until you explicitly raise the issue.

For example, let's look at the supermarket again. I've never seen any contract or tutorial or instructions how one is supposed to behave in a supermarket. Usually people just pick it up, I guess. Shoplifting has been discussed to the death, and right, it's pointed out that's codified in laws, explicitly. However, have you ever signed a contract that you actually have to abide by laws? I think only the persons who apply for a citizenship in a new country do sign papers and maybe recite vows that constitute as explicitly agreeing to a contract.

But maybe let's pick a more clearly implicit contract, like a thing like that you should line up before the cashier and not to jump the queue. If you don't abide by this, the other people in the queue will be quite angry with you. They will probably show they displeasure, and once I've even seen the cashier to give a stern "dude, not OK" look to person who did something like that.

(By the way, this kind of assumed implicit social contract of supermarket behaviour did cause serious confusion when the German chain Lidl entered here a decade ago. Their idea about the implicit social contract how the customer is supposed to pack their groceries was totally alien to the populace and caused serious confusion early on. Lidl thought that no conveyor belt at all on the cash desk after the register would suffice, because people would lift their shoppings into a shopping cart / cardboard box as soon as the cashier had hit them in the register. Nowadays they have conveyor belts after the register too, like the other stores here. Actually their belts in the new shops are even longer than it that picture.)

Another implicit contract is that you're supposed not to throw trash around in a public spaces. If there is a problem with trashing, the authorities will start putting up explicit signs against that (in some countries they will even fine you for that). Or like in the rental apartment complex I once lived in, they delivered the tenants a notice that "no, you're not supposed to pile up your furniture (instead of parking your car) on your parking spot in parking hall, even if you pay for the spot and we didn't thought about that while writing the rules".

My point is that most of the actual implicit social contracts I am aware of are enforced by the other people if you break them (or at least, the other people will show their negative reaction, if that counts as an enforcement). The most important ones get codified in laws and become more explicit that way, and there's assumption people abide by it. The most explicit contract is the one you can actually choose to enter, and the terms are more or less clearly written on a paper and you can even hire a lawyer to check what they entail.

--

Furthermore, whether not breaking these implicit contracts is something you're ethically required to do or not is a different question. Jumping the queue and littering the park are wrong not because there is an implicit contract in place to not to do that, but because they are harmful for the society as whole (if you go by the utilitarian ethics, or maybe some other reason given by your ethical theory, whatever your ethical theory is). I'd argue that's the reason the people assume the implicit contract and that you act in accordance with it.

This point has been raised already by others, but even if there's an assumed 'implicit contract' of ads (which is a position I agree can be defended), why I should obliged to abide by it (watch the ads)? Before this thread I don't remember never encountering an idea that I would have moral obligation to watch the ads.

The content providers attach ads to otherwise free content assuming that people will see the ads too, and the ads are effective, and for that reason the advertisers would pay the content providers serious money. Where does a contract that obliges me to watch the ads enter the picture? The content provider just (correctly) assumes that most people don't try to circumvent it.

However, now that Adblock has been around some time, some providers choose to offer me a contract. For example, blocking me altogether if they notice the adblocker, and requesting to disable it to enjoy the content. This would lend some credibility to the fact that at least the content provider has assumed there is such contract, and now chooses make the contract explicit. Usually at this point I choose not to use the service anymore.

For example, I understand that our city has an agreement with a company called JCDecaux that they maintain the bus stops and the company can sell the ad space on those bus stops. This is profitable to JCDecaux because there's lot of bus stops and they get to sell lots of ads that are seen by many people. Is there an implicit social contract in place? Am I obliged to look at the ads when waiting for the bus? Personally I often try not to, which is quite impossible, though. So I'm forced to mentally resist any artificial urges to buy things I otherwise wouldn't, if I can recognize and realize what they are. This makes life very irritating.

If people could effectively avoid the street ads, the deal wouldn't be profitable for JCDecaux anymore, and the city would have to pay explicitly for the bus stops instead of paying by allowing covertly allowing 3rd parties try to affect what the city dwellers would like to buy. I'd prefer that way, and it's one reason I consider when voting in municipal elections. Suppose I could get a Google Glass -like thing from a future that would block the ads from my visuals, and make the ad avoiding effective, would that be immoral? And as pointed out by others, those are quite benign form of advertising compared to internet ads that are actively harmful to your computer.

Of course, even the more traditional kind of advertising is done with decades worth of psychological knowledge about how to manipulate you and your feelings, natural urges and beliefs about your social standing to do things that might not be in your rational self-interest. Because of this I don't consider a very large portion of advertising a fair deal and I dedicate some of my mental processing time to actively attempt even some mild combat against the ads I can't avoid.

(edit2. I later thought I could be clearer: I don't think the deal they offer - "have the free content and watch the ads" - is fair one; advertisers probably know much more about how to influence me and my decisions than I do. Of course I can opt for not, and I e.g. actively prefer BBC and local public broadcaster that doesn't have ads, but still that restricts life quite much, because the majority of other people don't consider this an issue. I'm suddenly reminded of the passage in Fahrenheit 451 where Montag throws a fit because the other people in the subway don't stop singing along to the toothpaste jingle.)

I choose to use adblock, noscript and some other addons to make my websurfing more safe for me because most of the stuff those things block would more or less malicious. Occasionally I whitelist stuff, but because the chosen method of generating revenue by many content providers is what is it, the most sane way is to block things by default.

I'd prefer if I could subscribe to some things or pay otherwise instead of watching ads. I do pay for Spotify instead of listening to their ads, and I have bought merch from some creators I like, but most of the deals offered are not agreeable. For example, it used to be that when someone linked to an interesting article on some newspaper's webpage, paper would either have ads or a subscription option (or maybe force a paywall), but I really can't afford to subscribe to a paper to read just that one linked article. (Today some such providers allow you to share links to articles if you've yourself a paying subscriber, which is surprisingly sane idea).

(some minor language + etc edits)

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LaserGuy
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby LaserGuy » Tue Sep 15, 2015 12:00 am UTC

Mambrino wrote:My point is that most of the actual implicit social contracts I am aware of are enforced by the other people if you break them (or at least, the other people will show their negative reaction, if that counts as an enforcement). The most important ones get codified in laws and become more explicit that way, and there's assumption people abide by it. The most explicit contract is the one you can actually choose to enter, and the terms are more or less clearly written on a paper and you can even hire a lawyer to check what they entail.


Contracts aren't moral positions though. There are plenty of social conventions that are amoral, and some that are outright immoral--for example, a society that is openly racist. Likewise, simply because something is legal, or codified into some kind of contract, has little bearing on the morality of the situation.

For example, I understand that our city has an agreement with a company called JCDecaux that they maintain the bus stops and the company can sell the ad space on those bus stops. This is profitable to JCDecaux because there's lot of bus stops and they get to sell lots of ads that are seen by many people. Is there an implicit social contract in place? Am I obliged to look at the ads when waiting for the bus? Personally I often try not to, which is quite impossible, though. So I'm forced to mentally resist any artificial urges to buy things I otherwise wouldn't, if I can recognize and realize what they are. This makes life very irritating.


I would suggest that the claim is a little weaker than this. You aren't morally obliged to look at the ads; but you are morally obliged not to deface them. The advertising space is the property of the city, and they are leasing it out to an advertiser for a cost. If you want to close your eyes to the ad, that's fine. But you can't paint over the ad because that space is not your property. Likewise, the website is the property of the content creator, and they are leasing out space on the website to advertisers. You have every right to ignore the ads on a website, but you don't have the right to prevent the ads from being shown, because the website is not your property.

(edit2. I later thought I could be clearer: I don't think the deal they offer - "have the free content and watch the ads" - is fair one; advertisers probably know much more about how to influence me and my decisions than I do. Of course I can opt for not, and I e.g. actively prefer BBC and local public broadcaster that doesn't have ads, but still that restricts life quite much, because the majority of other people don't consider this an issue. I'm suddenly reminded of the passage in Fahrenheit 451 where Montag throws a fit because the other people in the subway don't stop singing along to the toothpaste jingle.)


How the majority of people behave in a given situation has little bearing on the morality of the situation. Indeed, ethical evolution by its very nature works in this way. Ten years ago, most people believed that restricting gay marriage was okay; sixty years ago, most people believed that discriminating against blacks was okay, a two hundred years ago, most people believed that owning slaves was okay (well, except the slaves). One might argue that the only interesting problems in ethics are the ones that most people disagree with at the outset. The majority of people, today, eat factory farmed meat, despite fairly compelling arguments that it is extremely unethical. Behaving ethically often means choosing what is right over what is more convenient or what is cheaper.

I'd prefer if I could subscribe to some things or pay otherwise instead of watching ads. I do pay for Spotify instead of listening to their ads, and I have bought merch from some creators I like, but most of the deals offered are not agreeable. For example, it used to be that when someone linked to an interesting article on some newspaper's webpage, paper would either have ads or a subscription option (or maybe force a paywall), but I really can't afford to subscribe to a paper to read just that one linked article. (Today some such providers allow you to share links to articles if you've yourself a paying subscriber, which is surprisingly sane idea).


If advertising collapses as an online revenue model, expect webpage microtransactions to be its replacement. You heard it here first.

elasto
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby elasto » Tue Sep 15, 2015 12:14 am UTC

LaserGuy wrote:If advertising collapses as an online revenue model, expect webpage microtransactions to be its replacement. You heard it here first.

Well, I didn't hear it here first ;) It a very old idea. But it will be a vast improvement on annoying ads that risk my safety.

I'm imagining a web-equivalent to a music streaming service where you pay a monthly fee which gets divided between the content providers you consume, paid out in proportion to how popular each page is.

Of course, many if not most websites will still choose to operate free to the end users. For example, Randall eschews ads, so why would he have need for micropayments? As a outlined a number of times now, there are a large number of viable alternatives to advertising as a revenue stream, and many operators will continue to leverage them.

Ads aren't going to collapse totally though; It's not possible to block text-only ads and product placement, so the least annoying forms of advertising are guaranteed to go the distance, which would be a win-win for all concerned.

Also, even if advertising revenue collapses, so long as bandwidth costs continue to plummet, websites will be able to survive on smaller and smaller revenues from other sources. Which would also be a win-win.

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ucim
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Re: Ethics of AdBlock

Postby ucim » Tue Sep 15, 2015 1:00 am UTC

LaserGuy wrote:Likewise, the website is the property of the content creator, and they are leasing out space on the website to advertisers. You have every right to ignore the ads on a website, but you don't have the right to prevent the ads from being shown, because the website is not your property.
You are not defacing a web page by not looking at it. You are not defacing a web page by not looking at parts of it. You are not defacing a web page by automating the job of not looking at parts of it.

Now, if you were to deploy a worm that deleted the ads from the server, or changed the urls on the server, then that would be defacig. But ad-block and no-script does not do that.

And shoplifting (depriving the rightful owner of his property) is not at all in the same category as not making yourself vulnerable to a website's shenanigans (or the secret robotic assistants the website employs to wreak havok on your computer in the name of convincing you to buy something from somebody else).

Tyndmyr wrote:But trying to draw some crazy equality because it's all 'desire to profit' is nuts. Everyone wants profit. What makes the profit ethical or not is the how.
The desire for profit is not what drives the "crazy equality". I use it merely as an intensifier. The "crazy equality" is driven by this crazy idea that there is some implied social contract that I've entered into by visiting a website, that obliges me to be vulnerable to everything that the website suggests that my browser do to my computer. Why should web beacons and Big Data correlations be any different. Isn't there an "implied contract" that you are morally obligated to give up all your privacy when you visit a website that wants it that way?

I think not... in both cases. I use whatever tools I have at my disposal to protect myself and my computer from undue influence, and have no ethical problem with doing so.

Jose
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