Ethics and Ad-blocking

Say you go into your favorite restaurant one day for a sandwich. As they hand it to you, they tell you that it’s free, but could you please pass it to their “partner” at the door on your way out. You see that someone from an entirely different company is taking people’s sandwiches at the door and inserting a flyer into them. (Yes, they are putting a leaflet into your sandwhich.) You don’t know who this partner is, and there’s no guarantee that he’s been vetted by the health department before handling your food.*

However, you already have your sandwich. You could just ignore the partner and walk the the side door. It would be totally legal, but both the restaurant and the flyer stuffer will be upset that you circumvented their system.

Is it wrong to do that? The sandwich was given to you for free under the assumption that the advertising pays for it, but you never agreed to this system. Does it affect the ethics of this situation that you don’t know the advertiser or have any reason to trust him to have washed his hands? In fact, you know plenty of people who’ve gotten food poisoning from situations just like this. How about the fact that dealing with the flier will definitively make your sandwich eating experience worse? Does that affect the ethics of the situation?

My opinion towards online advertising is pretty much entirely negative. Online ads are a filthy flier stuffed into my delicious sandwich of web content. Most of them are for products I don’t want; they’re intrusive; and you always see the same bland, obnoxious ads over and over again. Add to that the very real threat of drive-by attacks being embedded in random ads, and I make it a matter of policy to block most ads.

Still, some people say that it’s wrong to do so. They may say that watching ads is how you pay for your content. But it’s free content. I don’t remember any explicit or implicit agreement to pay of it with ad revenue.

They may say that it cheats content-providers out of their revenue. Honestly, if ad revenue is the only thing keeping your business solvent, you have a pretty terrible business model. At the risk of Godwinning this thing, human trafficking is the only thing that keeps food on some family’s tables; that doesn’t mean I’m OK with it.

I guess the long and short of it is, if you ever see ads on my site, don’t feel obligated to put and adblock exception in for me. If you ever see me buying ads on someone else’s site, feel free to ignore it.** And if you see advertisements in the comments sections of my blog. Ugh! Friggen’ spam bots!

* Of course, for purposes of this metaphor the health department is really only allowed to enforce mail-order food, but most mail-order food is sent without a return address, so they can’t track or enforce it anyway. Ok. That broke down quickly.

** I’m talking about paid ads in both cases. If I intentionally reference, market, or post something (e.g. the Other Bands We Enjoy posts), it’s probably because I think it’s a worthwhile thing to direct you to. If all advertising were like that, I wouldn’t even hate it!

Wow, this post is good, my younger sister is analyzing these things,
therefore I am going to tell her.

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