Is it Morally Wrong to Use an AdBlock Application?
Is it morally wrong to use AdBlock (or any other ad blocking software)?
When I was younger, I subscribed to many different magazines. I was fascinated by different subjects, including military history, geopolitics, science fiction, fantasy, and photography. At first, the advertising was sparse and generally ads seem to be positioned with articles and content with a similar subject. Any other ads were in the back section of the magazine.
It was obvious, especially looking back from now, that the people at magazines in charge of the layout of the copy went to a great deal of trouble to put it all together in a way that made sense. Of course, advertising was necessary, because otherwise the price would be out-of-bounds. By selling ads, magazines could lower the price to their subscribers.
Coming forward in time, many magazines lost track of their purpose and began showing more and more advertisements until it became a ridiculous situation. In some cases, the page count of advertisements was more than the page count of content.
Why would any magazine feel that people want to buy a thick, slickly produced book full of ads?
I canceled many subscriptions over this issue. Today, I only subscribe to magazines that are advertising free, or at least very close to it. It makes the magazine more expensive, but that’s a small price to pay to not be undated with worthless advertising.
As the Internet came online, the same mindset took hold. Advertising exploded, until now you have pop ups, pop unders, interstitial s, ads within ads next to copy, and ads anywhere else that they can conceivably be stuffed.
It’s gotten to the point where YouTube even interrupts videos to play an advertising video for a few seconds. It’s entirely obnoxious, to the point of being unforgivable.
Today advertising seems to be everywhere.
My biggest issue is when I pay for something such as going to the movies, I don’t expect to get advertising as part of the movie. I paid for that movie. Not only that, they’re not cheap. So in addition to paying to watch a release, I have to sit through three, four or even more advertisements. Add to that the six or seven previews that I’ve already seen, and by the time the movie starts I more than a little annoyed. This is one of the reasons why I don’t go to the movies anymore.
It gets even worse. I’ve started to see advertising put at the beginning of DVDs and Blu-rays. This is beyond obnoxious – and sometimes these advertisements cannot be skipped.
Is it morally wrong to use an adblock plugin?
I think the question is a little bit naïve. I think a better question would be “is it morally wrong to be funding services based on an advertising model?”
Facebook isn’t free, as the article There Ain’t no Such Thing as a Free Lunch describes. It appears to be free, because no one asks you for any money to use it. But you do pay for it. You pay every time you use it by giving up your personal information. Facebook knows every mouse click, every movement of the cursor, how long you hovered the mouse over a particular line or graphic. It knows what kind of monitor and computer you have. If you have a smart phone, Facebook knows where you’ve been, and, depending on your settings, it may have recorded everything you’ve said within range of your phone.
No, Facebook isn’t free by far. Nor is Google, LinkedIn, or any other advertising based anything on the Internet. You pay more than you can imagine for the privilege of using their service.
One of the most obnoxious practices is websites, especially newspapers, that won’t let you read the articles without paying a fee or for subscription. The problem is not that they demand money – that’s totally fine. The problem is there articles appear in search listings such as Google and Bing. My opinion is if an article isn’t free, it shouldn’t appear in the search engines.
Generally, if you’ve gone to the trouble to install an adblock plug-in or software, you’re probably not going to be looking at advertisements anyway. It’s a good bet that you won’t be clicking on banners or textual ads, and that pop-ups and pop unders are going to annoy you.
In summary, you could think of this as a bit of a war between advertisers and people. I’m not sure there will be a winner and a loser, but it is interesting watching how the battles proceed. Obviously, advertisers will come up with ways to get around adblock plugins, which will then fix those holes, and the whole cycle will repeat.
Check out my article There Ain’t no Such Thing as a Free Lunch for more on the subject.