We need smarter ads and smarter blocks

Internet users wrestle with the dilemma of not wanting intrusive advertisements, but wanting to support free content.


Photo illustration by Katie Evensen/THE CHIMES

Jacqueline Lewis, Writer

“Congratulations! You are our one millionth reader! Click here to claim your prize!”

In the past, the Internet was rife with pop-up ads reading similarly to the above hook. Now, these types of advertisements are less common, but advertisements continue to swarm the Internet. They are often intrusive, flashy and beg for the varied users of the Internet to click on them. Many avoid them at all costs, either not trafficking websites with them altogether or using some kind of content filter — also known as an adblocker.

avoiding aggressive and obstructive ads

People are increasingly employing these technologies to avoid aggressive and obstructive ads. In Apple’s release of iOS 9, the company decided to allow these content filters on their mobile devices, leaving many users asking whether or not to use this tool.

It seems like an easy solution to the problem of abusive and intrusive advertising. While some, believe the practice to be unethical, others believe they deserve a choice in what they see on their screen and when they are tracked.


The benefits of using adblockers are many — the screen looks cleaner, the sites load more quickly, batteries last longer, less data may be used and they sometimes block tracking software used to shoot more targeted advertisements your way.

But despite the benefits, the use of adblockers has one major issue — content supported by the ads it blocks cannot exist with their continued use. Because we pay for the content with our eyeballs, when we access content without viewing the ads, it seems we are in some way stealing.

To illustrate the dilemma many users face, Darius Kazemi created a program called The Ethical Adblocker which completely blocks the website if it is supported by ads. That way you will not subject yourself to ads unwillingly and will not steal from the website.

free and individualistic

Obviously, this seems extreme. We should not have to forego the entirety of the Internet for the sake of disliking advertisement.

But we like the Internet because it seems so free and individualistic, so personal to us. Those who advocate for the use of adblock dismiss this “contract” theory of advertisement. When we use websites supported by ads, we are not promising to view every single one and carefully consider the product.

When watching television, many people change channels or mute the TV when the commercials run. This practice is not native to the Internet. And internet ads do not merely sell a product, they track user data, are insecure and difficult to detect and often vectors for malware and fraud. It seems unethical to subject users to the potential for malware, fraud and privacy invasions. It is the job of the advertisers to ensure their advertisements are seen.


So the solution to the dilemma is two-fold, though perhaps not the ethical ideal. Although I would recommend if possible to view ads to support the content, when it is unbearable, the system must look for alternatives. Advertisements and adblockers need to get smarter together.  Native advertising, sponsored articles and the like more successfully bring more eyeballs to their ads. And adblockers must continue to research more nuanced ways to allow safe advertisements, but not others. The free internet depends on it.

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