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Advertising Censorship Your Rights Online

Website Mass-Bans Users Who Mention AdBlock 660

An anonymous reader writes to recommend TechDirt's take on the dustup over at the Escapist, which recently tried on banning users from their forums for the mere mention of AdBlock. In the thread in which the trouble started, a user complained that an ad for Time Warner Cable was slowing down his computer. Users who responded to the poster by suggesting "get Firefox and AdBlock" found themselves banned from the forums. The banned parties didn't even need to admit they used AdBlock, they simply had to recommend it as a solution to a troublesome ad. The forum's recently amended posting guidelines do indeed confirm that the folks at the Escapist believe that giving browsing preference advice is a "non forgivable" offense. After a lot of user protest, the forum unbanned the transgressors but heaped on the guilt.
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Website Mass-Bans Users Who Mention AdBlock

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  • by Cyberllama ( 113628 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @05:24AM (#31919976)

    Not too long ago, around a year ago, Blizzard added banner ads to the official World of Warcarft game forums.

    People strongly objected on the basis that nobody can post to those forums unless they already pay Blizzard money for an account, so why should paying customers be subjected to the advertisements? They clearly didn't need advertising revenue to pay the bills, it was just a crass money-grab. This spawned many posts on how to block the ads. The result? All of the ad-blocking discussion threads deleted, and all of their creators banned from the forums. Some people complained, but they soon found out that talking about deleted threads is also grounds for a ban.

    It sucks, but what can you do? The only way they would have any incentive to change is if people actually quit the game in protest over the decision, which isn't particularly likely. They perhaps spent some of their good will by way of their actions, but there's no real immediate or obvious negative repercussions.

    I am torn as well. I understand the need for advertisements to subsidize content on the web, but I also see it as an issue when a company abuses the ubiquity of ads to slip them in as a money-grab when they clearly aren't dependent on advertising for their revenue. Moreover, I really feel like it should be obvious at this point that banner ads are stupid. They fact that people go to such lengths to remove them should indicate how people feel about them. They're really no different then spam; except spam is free, so it can be profitable with abysmal response rates. Does anyone actually buy anything as result of banner ads? Sure people click them all the time, but how often is it done on purpose? The damn things are just in the way. I'm constantly accidentally tapping on ads on my iPhone, but I sure as hell have never bought anything as a result.

    Annoying flash ads, banner ads, and javascript-fueled nightmare ads are not selling anything. Anyone notice those are all things Google does not use? I think they know a thing or two about the business of internet ads. They've got 25 billion dollars in the bank that says internet advertising works better when its not obtrusive and obnoxious.

  • Re:Do an Ars (Score:5, Informative)

    by Spad ( 470073 ) <> on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @05:34AM (#31920034) Homepage

    [...]They've been redirected into oblivion in my /etc/hosts since then.

    Yes, because simply not visiting the site would be silly.

    From []

    [...]We made the mistake of assuming that everyone who is blocking ads at Ars is doing so with malice. As it turns out, only a few people are, and many (most?) indicated you are happy to help out. That's what led to this hopefully informative post.

    Our experiment is over, and we're glad we did it because it led to us learning that we needed to communicate our point of view every once in a while. Sure, some people told us we deserved to die in a fire. But that's the Internet![...]

    What dicks!

  • Re:Troublesome ads (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @05:46AM (#31920102)

    So use a better ad company. Project Wonderful [] lets you moderate ads if you choose, or whitelist by advertiser, or just allow a free-for-all. And they don't allow arbitrary scripting, so no XSS or browser attacks.

  • Re:Do an Ars (Score:5, Informative)

    by Zan Lynx ( 87672 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @05:52AM (#31920152) Homepage

    They were hostile to NoScript users too, who didn't even notice Ars had done anything until the forum postings started.

    Once some NoScript users mentioned that, and then loudly said they'd never, under any circumstances, enable scripting for doubleclick, etc, Ars got nasty toward them too.

  • Re:Find a new site (Score:4, Informative)

    by beuges ( 613130 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @06:04AM (#31920198)

    I have no idea if its related or purely coincidental, but ever since I've had the 'Disable Ads' box checked, I've never received mod-points, despite receiving them somewhat regularly up till then.

  • Re:Find a new site (Score:5, Informative)

    by Enleth ( 947766 ) <> on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @06:28AM (#31920376) Homepage

    I'm getting so many packs of 15s that I would be rich if it was possible to sell them. "Disable Ads" checked since around 2007.

  • by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @06:49AM (#31920464) Journal

    After many years[1] there finally seems to be some signs of progress being made on features that will help websites make things safer for their users: [] []

    [1] I actually tried to get people to do something about a similar problem 8 years ago: [] []

    For years the browser and W3 have been focusing on adding "gas pedals", and their idea of brakes was "just make sure none of the hundreds of gas pedals we created are pressed", which is a bit trickier in the real world.

    If they had added working "brake pedals" back then, stuff like the MySpace worm might not have happened. And ads and other 3rd party content might be more easily secured.

  • Re:Do an Ars (Score:5, Informative)

    by delinear ( 991444 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @06:53AM (#31920488)

    Google learned this lesson back when every other search provider were doing banner ads, and this is one reason why Google has leapfrogged ahead of the pack and stayed ahead so long. Text ads are fine. Ads which require 5 megabyte .swf files are just plain unacceptable.

    The sweet irony here, of course, is that DoubleClick are one of the worst offenders and are actually owned by Google, now.

  • Re:Find a new site (Score:3, Informative)

    by he-sk ( 103163 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @07:28AM (#31920696)

    I ad-block, have the checkbox clicked and still get modpoints about 2-4 times a month for writing about as many posts. In fact, I have some right now.

  • Re:Do an Ars (Score:3, Informative)

    by Trepidity ( 597 ) <> on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @07:53AM (#31920820)

    Unfortunately, this is also making Google's ads worse. Since a year or two ago, by default AdSense publishers have a box checked that allows Google to sell the space to "third-party networks" as well, and they use DoubleClick for that a lot. You can uncheck the box and require only ads that go via actual Google AdSense, but I suspect few publishers do.

  • by dr2chase ( 653338 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @08:05AM (#31920936) Homepage
    Firewalls are a good idea, but they can also be used to generate lame excuses. I did complain to one site about a Flash add (designed to thwart Click-to-Flash, I think) that filled the screen and interfered with reading the site, unless flash was enabled (at least, that was what I could determine). I bitched at them about this, pointed out that I was ok with static advertisements, and got the firewall-runaround. Bitched about the behavior of their corporate parent, got the firewall runaround.

    So I got rid of their bookmark, and I don't miss them.
  • by MadMaverick9 ( 1470565 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:20AM (#31921780)

    If we are not allowed to talk about AdBlock plus, then lets talk about "document.write".

    Most (probably all) ads are created with "document.write", so simply block "document.write". And enable "document.write" for the few sites that you really enjoy.

    Add the following to "prefs.js" (seamonkey, firefox, ...):

    user_pref("capability.policy.default.HTMLDocument.write", "noAccess");

    user_pref("capability.policy.trusted.HTMLDocument.write", "sameOrigin");
    user_pref("capability.policy.trusted.sites", "http://localhost [] ... ");

    user_pref("capability.policy.policynames", "trusted");

    See [] for more details ...

  • Re:Find a new site (Score:3, Informative)

    by Neoprofin ( 871029 ) <(neoprofin) (at) (> on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:47AM (#31922142)
    I think they give it to people whose comments are regularly rated up, and whose moderating is meta-moderated positively.

    Not to mention they've got an entire FAQ on who gets points if anyone bothered to read the documentation, all sorts of things like visiting often but not too often, reading the comment section or articles, it's wheels within wheels!
  • Sea Shepards (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @02:23PM (#31927806)

    When the Sea Shepherds decided that terrorism was a valid way of combating whaling, I stopped contributing to them.

    Terrorism? Not even close. Pull your head out of your ass.

    Organizations have been trying to play the politics game for decades with NOTHING to show for it. The only things saving whales right now are the economy and last-minute regulations pushed through to protect species as they face extinction. Those ships are engaged in blatantly illegal commercial whaling in international waters. Governments choose to ignore it. Civilians, then, under international law, have a legal right and moral obligation to intervene.

    Stalking ships involved in criminal activity? Not terrorism.
    Filming and documenting the actions of ships involved in criminal activity? Not terrorism.
    Throwing bottles of butyric acid* onto the decks of ships involved in criminal activity? Not terrorism.
    Ramming ships involved in criminal activity? Not terrorism.
    Boarding ships involved in criminal activity? Not terrorism.

    Are these actions dangerous? Yes. Fuck, just being that far south is dangerous in itself. But they are legal and justified under the circumstances. It isn't terrorism, it isn't even piracy, it is sanctified naval enforcement.

    Watch "Whale Wars" if you haven't already. You need to see two things. First, what actually happens out there. The horrific nature of whaling is something you have to see to comprehend. Second, that the Sea Shepherds are woefully ill-equipped, inexperienced, and incompetent. But they are the only ones trying to make a difference. When politics fails, when the public loses interest, when governments choose to ignore a problem, what is there left to do but take action into your own hands?

    Do some research. Look at the bullshit politics. Watch an entire herd of whales slaughtered in one of the most inhumane ways imaginable. If you can still tell me you don't support the Sea Shepherds, I have no respect for you as a human being. Period.

    * Butyric acid is derived from rotten butter and cheese. It is harmless. About as acidic as beer. Nontoxic, but a mild irritant with extended skin or eye contact (4+ hours on sensitive skin), and completely safe to ingest. At best, it is a mild stink bomb useful in wet conditions. The goal is to force the crew off of the kill floor and to "spoil" the whale meat. Crew members are not specifically not targeted.

When a fellow says, "It ain't the money but the principle of the thing," it's the money. -- Kim Hubbard