Advertisement

Ethics and Information Technology

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 143–155 | Cite as

A defense of ad blocking and consumer inattention

  • Alexander Zambrano
  • Caleb Pickard
Original Paper

Abstract

Ad blockers are a category of computer software program, typically run as web browser extensions, that allow users to selectively eliminate advertisements from the webpages they visit. Many people have alleged that using an ad blocker is morally problematic because it is bad for content providers and consumers, and it is morally akin to theft. We disagree. In this paper, we defend an independent argument for the conclusion that using an ad blocker is morally permissible. In doing so, we respond to the criticisms that ad blocking is bad for content providers and consumers, that it is morally akin to theft, and that it violates a contract between consumers and web publishers.

Keywords

Advertising Ad-blockers Internet Computers 

References

  1. Arment, M. The ethics of modern ad blocking, August 11, 2015, Accessed November 13, 2015, from https://marco.org/2015/08/11/ad-blocking-ethics.
  2. Arrington, R. (1982). Advertising and behavior control. Journal of Business Ethics, 1, 3–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Biegler, P., & Vargas, P. (2013). Ban the sunset? Nonpropositional content and regulation of pharmaceutical advertising. The American Journal of Bioethics, 13(5), 3–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bishop, J. (2000). Is self-identity image advertising ethical? Business Ethics Quarterly, 10(2), 371–398.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Burns, N. (2006). Shaving with five blades when maybe two will do. The New York Times, January 19, 2006, sec. Fashion & Style. https://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/19/fashion/thursdaystyles/shaving-with-five-blades-when-maybe-two-will-do.html.
  6. Crisp, R. (1987). Persuasive advertising, autonomy, and the creation of desire. Journal of Business Ethics, 6, 413–418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Gassee, J.-L. What the Ad Blocker Debate Reveals, Monday Note, August 3, 2015, Accessed November 13, 2015, from http://www.mondaynote.com/2015/08/03/what-the-ad-blocker-debate-reveals/.
  8. “Google Losing Billions in Ad blocking Devil’s Deal | Inside PageFair.” Page Fair, June 8, 2015, Accessed December 13, 2015, https://blog.pagefair.com/2015/google-losing-billions-adblock-devils-deal/.
  9. Hof, R. Medium’s Evan Williams To Publishers: Your Website Is Toast. Forbes, September 9, 2015, Accessed December 10, 2015, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/roberthof/2015/09/09/mediums-evan-williams-to-publishers-your-website-is-toast/#7e40f82b3830.
  10. Ingram, M. Publishers only have themselves to blame for the ad-blocking apocalypse, Fortune, August 13, 2015, Accessed November 13, 2015, from http://fortune.com/2015/08/13/publishers-only-have-themselves-to-blame-for-the-ad-blocking-apocalypse/.
  11. Johnson, C. Welcome to the Block Party, The Awl, September 14, 2015, Accessed November 13, 2015, from http://www.theawl.com/2015/09/welcome-to-the-block-party.
  12. Johnston, C. Welcome to the Block Party. The Awl, September 14, 2015, Accessed November 13, 2015, from http://www.theawl.com/2015/09/welcome-to-the-block-party.
  13. Jones, B. Anti-adblock killer heralds next stage in ad blocking arms race. Digital Trends, February 12, 2016, Accessed February 16, 2016, from http://www.digitaltrends.com/web/anti-adblock-killer-heralds-next-stage-in-ad-blocking-arms-race/.
  14. Lippke, R. L. (1989). Advertising and the social conditions of autonomy. Business & Professional Ethics Journal, 8(4), 35–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Needleman, S. E., Mobile-game makers try to catch more ‘Whales’ who pay for free games. Wall Street Journal, May 11, 2015, sec. Tech. Accessed February 27, 2016, from http://www.wsj.com/articles/mobile-game-makers-try-to-catch-more-whales-who-pay-for-free-games-1431306115.
  16. Newman, N., Levy, D. A. L., & Nielsen, R. K. Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2015: Tracking the Future of News. Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. Accessed December 13, 2015, from https://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/sites/default/files/Reuters%20Institute%20Digital%20News%20Report%202015_Full%20Report.pdf.
  17. Patel, N. “Welcome to hell: Apple vs Google vs Facebook and the slow death of the web” The Verge, September 17, 2015, Accessed November 13, 2015, from http://www.theverge.com/2015/9/17/9338963/welcome-to-hell-apple-vs-google-vs-facebook-and-the-slow-death-of-the-web.
  18. Perez, S. “Axel Springer Goes After iOS 9 Ad Blockers In New Legal Battle.” TechCrunch, November 23, 2015, Accessed February 27, 2016, from http://social.techcrunch.com/2015/11/23/axel-springer-goes-after-ios-9-ad-blockers-in-new-legal- battle/.
  19. Piltch, A. “Why Using an Ad Blocker is stealing” Tom’s Guide, May 22, 2015, Accessed November 13, 2015, from http://www.tomsguide.com/us/ad-blocking-is-stealing,news-20962.html.
  20. Primack, D., & Dear Apple, I may rob your store” Fortune, September 8 2015, Accessed November 13, 2015, from http://fortune.com/2015/09/18/dear-apple-i-may-rob-your-store/.
  21. Rachels, J. (1975). Active and passive euthanasia. The New England Journal of Medicine, 292, 78–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Schofield, J. Ad Blocking is theft, so block Firefox instead. August 19, 2007, Accessed November 13, 2015, from http://www.theguardian.com/technology/blog/2007/aug/19/adblockingis.
  23. Smith, S., Why we sign up for gym memberships but never go to the gym. NPR.org. January 15, 2016, Accessed February 27, 2016, from http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2014/12/30/373996649/why-we-sign-up-for-gym-memberships-but-don-t-go-to-the-gym.
  24. Sterling, B. WIRED and Ad Blockers. WIRED, February 16, 2016, Accessed February 16, 2016, from http://www.wired.com/beyond-the-beyond/2016/02/wired-and-ad-blockers/.
  25. Tavani, H. (2002). The uniqueness debate in computer ethics: what exactly is at issue, and why does it matter? Ethics and Information Technology, 4, 37–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. The 2015 Ad Blocking Report. Inside PageFair, Accessed February 8, 2016, from https://blog.pagefair.com/2015/ad-blocking-report/.
  27. Yglesias, M. The ad blocking controversy, explained, Vox, September 18, 2015, Accessed November 13, 2015, http://www.vox.com/2015/9/18/9351759/ad-blocking-controversy.

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Colorado BoulderBoulderUSA

Personalised recommendations